February 2021

As we head into the 2021, it is important to recognize the transformative shift within the Procurement function over the past decade. Previously, a typical purchasing function is limited to a buy-sell transaction or focusing on cost savings or supply continuity. Today, strategic sourcing is a proven approach to establishing increased competition, cost reduction, creating relationships with suppliers, thorough understanding of market / internal company requirements, reviewing spend analytics, category management, and much more.

Have we observed a big shift in the way strategic sourcing is executed? Many business leaders are eager to improve processing, reduce costs, and optimize competitive advantages. To do so, they must be able to reshape their supplier relationships, align on strategies to revamp the desired future state, and recognize the competitive advantages strategic sourcing has shaped across decades.

Providing Value-add Services - Beyond Savings

Today, procurement professionals are expected to deliver services beyond cost reduction. The demand of strategic sourcing has shifted to offer value-add capabilities, such as:

  • Data Analysis:
    • Collection and in-depth analysis of essential data to consider the best-in-class go-forward strategy
  • Supplier Management and Development:
    • Investing and sustaining supplier relationships
    • Identify opportunities to create total cost savings above and beyond piece price reduction through leveraging supplier relationship.
  • Leveraging market intelligence to improve efficiencies
  • Utilizing competition to negotiate and reduce overall costs
  • Make realistic, impactful recommendations that address constant organizational advancements and supplier relationships

For decades, driving savings has always been a primary goal within procurement. Note, savings is typically recognized as the key highlight and how procurement is known, understood, and valued across organizations. However, the current state of procurement is shifting and being tasked with a deeper, more meaningful way procurement is driven, thriving beyond hard dollar savings, cost containment, or cost avoidance.

Within the procurement workspace, talent has dramatically increased over the years. The procurement function has greater expectations - competition within the field has risen higher than ever before. Procurement professionals are being tasked with increasing the speed of project delivery, faster innovation, accommodating tighter budgets, and addressing competition within the marketplace.

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is changing the procurement function. Many procurement companies have been tasked with agility, speed, and scalability to address the impacts of procurement disruptors. The key to success is capitalizing on the undertaking of digital transformation and using this as an opportunity for growth, competitiveness, and efficiency. 

By 2021, the world of digital transformation has required procurement professionals to think creatively, digitally, and become data masters. We must accept that change is constant, and collaboration between procurement and data science teams will always be meaningful and relevant. According to GEP, leading companies are pursuing “digital-first” strategies. 


Corcentric, and its resources, has been extremely proactive with advancing technologies, improving data analytics tools, and staying in the-know for software developments and procurement transformation. We offer AP Automation, procurement, and billing solutions to help companies optimize how they purchase, pay, and get paid. A key focus is delivering services inclusive of additional value-add capabilities, such as building sustaining supplier relationships, applying relevant market intelligence, benchmarking analytics, consulting, and more.

For more information on how we offer top of the line procurement and consulting services (beyond hard-dollar savings) and ways we keep up with digital transformation – please email us at sales@corcentric.com.

Let’s get started today!

Quarterly Business Reviews, also known as “QBRs” are a critical piece associated with any successful supplier relationship program.  While interacting with clients and suppliers, a concerning trend often identified is that many organizations seem to lack any strategic level of relationship management once a long-term agreement has been put in place between two parties.  In other words, a supplier’s contractual agreement is essentially put on “auto-pilot” with minimal oversight until it is ready for renewal.  This is a critical misstep that organizations should avoid, much like not taking your car to the mechanic for a check-up, not having check-ups scheduled with your contracted supply base will lead to an inevitable breakdown of expectations between both sides overtime.  This blog will help explain how establishing QBRs with a supplier for 1 hour per quarter will help save your organization countless hours and dollars via strategic alignment and corrective action.

Suppliers to coordinate QBRs with

If you are an organization with a large umbrella of suppliers providing a wide array of services, QBRs simply are not a viable solution for every supplier that is under contract.  The goal here is to identify what I like to call “mission-critical” suppliers that your organization relies on for success.  In other words, that supplier’s success leads to your success.  Keeping a pulse on these key suppliers will not only ensure continuous progress is occurring, but it also helps drive home the fact that accountability and open communication is an expectation for all parties involved.  For contracted suppliers not associated with mission-critical pieces of your operation, annual reviews are an excellent alternative to ensure goals and expectations are still being met.   

QBRs and contracting

After identifying your mission-critical suppliers that will require QBRs, it is important to ensure your contractual agreements are crafted in a way to help manage expectations for these reviews moving forward.  Another way to look at this - If it is important to you, make sure it is in the agreement to ensure all parties are on the same page.  The agreement should clearly highlight required KPI reports and other trackable metrics that must be provided on a quarterly basis for the team’s review.  This type of reporting can easily be tied back to prior reports which will allow for simple trend identification and problem solving for any potential pain-points. 

What should be discussed during a QBR

Create a clear concise agenda with critical talking points to ensure all topics are given ample time for review.  It is also important to ensure you invite key decision makers and critical stakeholders only, this will allow for quick and easy alignment regarding any strategic level concerns due to the organizational hierarchy already being present.  

A critical piece that should be included in your agenda is the discussion and review of KPI reports that were negotiated at the onset of the agreement.  While KPI metrics vary greatly between categories, a few metrics that tend to provide value include topics such as: Financial Performance, Customer Satisfaction, Business Processes and Organization Growth/Forecasting.

Next steps after a QBR

Get the next QBR on the calendar!  You would be shocked how difficult it is to have all calendars align between both parties when many members on the call are a part of senior leadership.  Utilize this time to have everyone open their calendars prior to ending the meeting to establish the date and time for the next QBR.  You also want to take the time to assign actionable deliverables and goals not only for the next QBR but for any pain-points identified during this meeting that require immediate corrective action.  Be sure to assign due dates and do not forget to send out an update at the end of the meeting reminding everyone of their assigned action items and delivery dates.

The end goal of a QBR is to essentially have this supplier perform better for you than for your competitors.  Chances are your competition is utilizing this supplier in some capacity as well, as a result going through the process of creating trackable metrics to help manage expectations on a quarterly basis will ensure this supplier performs better for you than your competitors.


In today’s competitive marketplace organizations who neglect to invest in and enable their Accounts Payable function are doing more damage than they likely realize. When Accounts Payable processes are not up to par, the impacts on the department itself are obvious. AP processors become bogged down with manual tasks and all sorts of preventable business waste, perpetually limiting them to a tactical role. But there are additional impacts outside of the AP department. When the AP department is not up to snuff this means suppliers are not going to be paid on time. This is damaging to supplier relationships and makes life difficult for the Procurement department. Suppliers have no incentive to offer better pricing and service terms and will be less willing to offer additional value-added services they would provide to more valued customers. Outside of these targeted negative effects, the business’s financial accuracy and bottom line take a big hit. When considering how to solve these problems, businesses need to think in terms of a transformation.

As you look for the best approach to transform your Accounts Payable operations, the good news is there are options. The three areas to focus on that will make the largest and most immediate impact are: automation, policy and process, and managed services. Best in class organizations typically seek the help of industry experts to determine the right balance of each. In the end, whatever approach is taken, investment in any of these three areas will result in a more strategic, empowered, and thus happy Accounts Payable department. Now lets take a closer look at each of these three options.


Accounts Payable automation utilizes technology to optimize the flow of your business’s invoices. Doing so eliminates highly complex and manual paper-based processes and replaces them with digitally streamlined and simple processes. Eliminating these manual paper-based processes will dramatically increase the productivity of your Accounts Payable department. Better yet, by removing these burdensome non-value adding tasks from AP’s desk, they can better focus their time on more strategic value adding tasks and projects. This will improve the morale of your Accounts Payable department, as well as their reputation across the rest of the organization. The bottom line is automation can enable your organization to accelerate invoice processing cycle times by up to 70% and reduce average invoice processing costs by 80%. These are results that matter.

Policy and Process

Best-in-class organizations establish and strictly manage detailed and clear policies for invoice handling: from receipt, through approval, and payment. These policies must be formalized, comprehensive, consistently applied, and easy to navigate to encourage compliance. Additionally, Accounts Payable processes need to be aligned with your organizational goals for the department. Processes should also be well documented and monitored to gage performance and monitor business health. To assess policy and processes, it is critical to establish and continuously track metrics and KPIs. Accounts Payable KPIs that should be tracked by all organizations include: cost per invoice, payment cycle time, payment accuracy percentage, days payable outstanding, and on-time payment percentage. Additional KPIs you may want to consider depending upon your strategic priorities include: percentage of early payment discounts captured, percentage of supplier invoices accurately billed, or average cost per supplier dispute. Whatever the strategic goals for your Accounts Payable department may be, it is critical to review your policy and processes on a regular basis to ensure they are aligned with those goals and being adhered to.

Outsourcing and Managed Services Provider

If you feel as though your Accounts Payable organization is immature but are not quite sure where to focus to solve the issues, enlisting the help of a 3rd party Accounts Payable solutions provider is likely your best bet. Gaining perspective from a solutions expert will help your organization understand current state maturity in terms of analytical capabilities, staff, policy and process, and technology to determine the appropriate balance and necessary steps to implement long term effective solutions. In the past outsourcing typically meant a “lift and shift” of current processes to take advantage of lower labor costs. In today’s business environment, Managed Services providers are bringing a broad array of strategic capabilities and technology-based solutions to optimize customer operations. With diligence and attention to defining requirements your organization will be able to find a solution provider that can deliver the results you need to improve your operations and cut bottom line costs.


Now is the time to invest invest in your Accounts Payable department. By pursuing any one of the AP transformation strategies discussed within this article, or a combination of multiple strategies, your organization will benefit from increased efficiency, reduced risk, improved supplier relationships, and more informed spend decision making. If you are unsure about where to begin, start by reaching out to Corcentric.


Millions of people have found themselves out of work in recent months and the U.S. economy has not recovered back to the level of nationwide employment seen prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak. However, there are some positions that have actually taken big steps forward amid the pandemic, most notably within the logistics and supply chain spheres.

Indeed, LinkedIn notes that hiring for e-commerce fulfillment roles in particular increased 73% from 2019 to 2020, and that companies offering those positions were still looking to fill some 400,000 open jobs as of mid-January 2021. The job titles most often associated with these positions were drivers, supply chain associates, package handlers, and personal shoppers; they offered a standard salary range of between $42,000 and $56,000.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the places where these jobs were especially common were some of the nation's most populous cities: Chicago, New York City, and the District of Columbia topped the list, the report said. Of those who were hired for these roles, roughly 3 in 4 had at least a bachelor's degree, meaning they were highly qualified for the roles.

Supply chain hiring may need to take a big step forward in 2021.Supply chain hiring may need to take a big step forward in 2021.

How are companies attracting talent?
There is a clear "A to B" for why hiring for logistics roles rose sharply last year: With hundreds of millions of people mostly locked down across the country, online shopping became a huge driver of nationwide commerce, according to estimates from Randstad. Because there is such demand for professionals at all levels of supply chain organizations, salaries are on the rise as well; so far, it's projected that hourly pay will have to increase by as much as 3.5% for some of these jobs, and that may be particularly true for management roles.

"Despite labor market challenges associated with the pandemic, our data shows that many employers across a number of industries are still in desperate need of workers," said Karen Fichuk, CEO of Randstad North America. "That demand is driving an uptick in compensation and benefits for these roles, and employers will need to meet these expectations to secure talent in a tightening labor market."

Underlying support
At the same time as supply chain efforts are ramping up, manufacturers are also churning out more product these days but struggling to get them delivered effectively, according to the Report on Business from the Institute of Supply Management based on data from December 2020. The number of new orders U.S. manufacturers receive is on the rise, as is the number of hires in the sector and the rate at which goods are being produced, but deliveries from suppliers are slowing down at an increasing rate and production backlogs are rising.

The good news is both the manufacturing sector and the American economy as a whole is continuing to improve, and it's certainly the case that business in the supply chain would be wise to continue their hiring efforts. Being able to meet national (or global) demand for shipping in the U.S. is vital for many reasons, and companies should be more proactive about findings ways to attract talent.

Hiring today is just as complicated for Procurement leaders as it was in 2019. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but most indications are a year-end return to the “old normal” at best. Procurement teams still need to navigate this “new normal” a while longer.

One of the more complicated aspects of running a Procurement team in this COVID landscape is ensuring proper staffing. There’s hesitance from the C-suite to hire during a time of economic uncertainty and real concern from potential candidates who would rather stay safe in their current positions than risk a move that could end poorly in a rough market. How should Procurement leaders respond?

I sat down with Andy Jones, Corcentric's Strategic Account Consultant who leads our staffing and recruiting practice, to answer that question. You can listen to our discussion here.

Hiring During the Pandemic

Today’s Job Landscape

Overarching economic uncertainty has shifted the hiring strategy to be less about “growth mode” than in previous years. It is more common to see organizations hiring defensively, simply trying to fill vacancies and sustain operations.

One strategy we’ve seen is reducing the workforce by either letting go on non-critical staff or converting full time roles into 1099 contractors. While this could reduce costs, it also introduces efficiency risks – it also changes the view that potential candidates may have on an organization they consider applying to. 

Hiring managers will need a strong strategy to communicate these changes to allay any fears an applicant has. In a recent LinkedIn survey, 74% of potential candidates are sheltering in their jobs rather than trying to seek a different position. Just as organizations are hiring defensively, applicants are considering their current jobs defensively as they simply don’t know what the future holds.

COVID’s Impact on the Recruiting Process

The net result of this uncertainty is clear: Fewer organizations are hiring, and fewer candidates are willing to make a jump and leave their jobs.

There’s usually a “sweet spot” in terms of unemployment levels that turn the landscape from a buyer’s (employer’s) market to a seller’s (applicant’s) market. During relatively low unemployment levels, those seen during 2018 and 2019 for example, recruiters needed to up their activity level to compete for scarce applicants that had their choice of open positions. Unemployment levels creeping up normally means more applicants per open position, giving organizations more options and negotiating leverage.

However, these aren’t normal times. Generally speaking, Procurement roles aren’t seeing as high a level of unemployment – but Procurement professionals are still spooked by the numbers. This means recruiters need to work as hard or harder than  they did in a good economy to attract new talent.

This means putting in more leg work and making more contacts. Picking up the phone and connecting directly to candidates, reaching them through LinkedIn or other social media, and upping activity levels.

The Future of Remote Work

Plenty of organizations and employees enjoy the remote work setup that white collar roles have shifted to in the last year. Some organizations have embraced this change and closed their physical locations permanently, opting to continue with a remote workforce. However, by necessity or choice, plenty of employers and employees alike are eager to get back in the office.

So, what does this mean for the future of remote work? It likely won’t be a black or white answer. Instead, odds are good that organizations will return to more traditional physical workspaces while at the same time being more tolerant of remote work given the benefits. For example, organizations that previously hired 100% local resources will likely be willing to hire on remote workers for sought-after, specialized skillsets. Organizations may also adopt  hybrid model, offering employees the opportunity to work some days of the week from home.

Any organization looking to snap back to fully in-office workers, however, should carefully consider this choice. Candidates now see that they can get their jobs done from home without the hassle and cost (time and money) of making a commute – and many won’t want to give this up.

Moving Past 2021

Simply put, it’s understandable that hiring managers have a defensive strategy, and will need to maintain it to weather the storm. That said, we also need to keep our eye (and higher-level strategy) on the future. This pandemic will end, and the economy will recover. 

Most estimates are for an early 2022 recovery, with some optimistically hoping for a gradual shift to start in Q4 2021. Think about what your team will need in a post-pandemic economy, and start laying the groundwork under the assumption that you’ll need to be at 100% capacity in nine to twelve months.

What do Hiring Managers “Get Wrong?”

On a tactical note, what are hiring managers doing today that leads to fewer hires… or fewer good hires?

  • Failing to keep activity levels up. Recruiters need more candidate touchpoints today than ever before. Sending emails, connecting on social media, and actually picking up the phone and talking candidates through the opportunity is critical.
  • Not understanding from-home interview limitations. Home life can and will intrude on skype calls, especially for candidates with children in schools districts that haven’t reopened. Be OK with this. Communicate to candidates early on that you’re OK with this. 

Moving Forward

The phrase of the day for recruiting is “cautious optimism.” We’ll all need to put more work into finding candidates and selling them on new job opportunities given current conditions. However, these conditions won’t last forever.

Even while we continue necessarily playing a defensive game, we need to shift our strategic focus to a future when the economy recovers – some old trends and strategies will return, but others (like offering remote work) are likely here to stay, and need to be considered to attract the best candidates.

Click here to listen to my interview with Andy, or read more about how Corcentric can support your recruiting strategies today.

As most are aware, 2020 was a challenging year for everyone. While some businesses and industries were able to thrive, others needed to be creative in their ability to adapt and survive. One of the key takeaways from 2020 was how to prepare for drastic times and make sure if anything like 2020 happens again, we are all better prepared. 

Looking forward to 2021 within the Logistics Industry, you will see some of what we have come to expect stay the same. While in other areas, there will be change, most likely permanent change, that will affect the industry moving forward. Below you will find a few highlights and updates from the beginning of 2021 and looking to the rest of the year for both the Less-Than-Truckload and Full-Truckload markets. 

 LTL General Rate Increases:

Most carriers implement annual GRIs for noncontractual freight to absorb cost inflation, including driver and dockworker pay increases and ongoing investments in tech and real estate. In 2021, driver recruitment and retention expenses represent one of the biggest cost headwinds for carriers. Fuel expenses have moved higher as well, but separate surcharge mechanisms are in place to capture fluctuations.

So far early in 2021, the majority of the increases are in the 5% to 6% range, likely indicative of tightening LTL capacity and a rate-disciplined environment.

LTL Carrier Pricing Trend:

More carriers are getting better intelligence around what they are hauling and how it impacts their costs. This will continue to push freight not ideal for LTL, small shippers especially, away from a model of base rate/discount and into blanket rates, most likely from brokers.

This in turn, will drive more development of dynamic and dimension driven pricing around carrier blanket/broker programs. Some carriers are already going down this cube and density path.

Regardless of where your current freight model currently sits, the industry is continuing to evolve which makes strong relationships with your carriers a critical path to optimal LTL pricing. 

Update on the Purchase of UPS Freight:

Montreal-based TFI International Inc. has agreed to purchase UPS Freight for $800 million. About 90% of the acquired business will operate independently within TFI International’s LTL business segment under a new name, TForce Freight. UPS Freight’s dedicated truckload assets will merge into TFI’s truckload segment.

TForce Freight will continue to serve UPS’ ongoing LTL distribution needs, and UPS will continue to provide freight volumes and other services to TForce Freight after the transaction for a base term of five years. UPS Freight employees will go with the business to TFI.

Trucking Market for 2021

Up until two years ago, most companies have purchased a set amount of freight transportation via an annual bid process, and then modified that contract as needed as their freight demands increased or decreased. That changed in 2018, when capacity crunches and driver shortages took hold of the industry. Fast-forward to 2020, and the annual bid is once again proving useless as companies scramble to secure capacity at the right price and with the best possible terms. The market is going to go up and down, so trying to reap the benefits in each of these peaks or valleys just doesn’t make sense long-term.

Both shippers and providers have also come to realize that all freight isn’t the same, and that it shouldn’t be treated as such. For example, every company should have a portfolio of ways of interacting with the different carriers. If you have a lane that ships once every quarter, you’re not going to have the same relationship as a lane that has 20 loads a week or 10 loads a day.

Shippers and carriers are both recognizing the need to look at the entire network and all the different lanes that they’re trying to secure a relationship with. Then, they can decide what part of the continuum will work best—spot, dedicated or some form of contract in the middle

The future…

Many large companies have failed to invest much capital into the building and automating of robust transportation systems

That changed when the global pandemic came into view and began disrupting the world’s supply chains, making transportation much more than just a necessary evil. And while the pandemic as a whole has exacted a steep toll on human lives and livelihoods, it’s also pushed more organizations to rethink how they manage their logistics and freight operations.

Companies are realizing it’s a must to invest in technology and automate transportation-related processes. The automation of freight management should continue to grow over the next few years. Artificial intelligence will play a bigger role in this evolution by providing shipment visibility, exceptions management, and risk management tools that address issues like weather and traffic.

Whenever you can take a handwritten bill of lading, digitize it, and then report on it in a matter of seconds, it gives a shipper the best chance for a successful and efficient supply chain and logistics network. As these and other advancements become more prevalent in freight management, they’ll dramatically drive down the costs and improve efficiencies across the board.

In any business venture or department, your goal should be continual improvement on your current processes so you're always in a position to put your best foot forward. That's certainly true when it comes to any company's procurement department, because there will always be ways to handle purchasing management more effectively.

How do you get a handle on these efforts? The following steps could go a long way toward putting you in a better position down the road:

1) Make sure your team meets your needs

First and foremost, two things must be true: Your procurement department should stand apart from other aspects of the company to ensure everything is centralized, and you need the right people on that team to follow through on your efforts, according to My Management Guide. That obviously means hiring talented procurement pros, but also that you hire the right number of them to meet your organizational needs.

2) Develop your leadership skills

At the same time as you are right-sizing your team, you should also strive to have all the skills to effectively manage it, My Management Guide said. A little effort to pursue professional management trainings and acquaint yourself with the latest in purchasing software or tech could be a boon for everyone involved.

Get a better handle on all aspects of procurement management.Get a better handle on all aspects of procurement management.

3) Keep better records (for all sorts of things)

Data drives any procurement department, so you should be collecting and maintaining more of it, according to Bizfluent. That could include everything from which past orders were fulfilled, and how, to when you last spoke to a shipping partner's representative and the last time everyone was trained on new ideas or procedures. When you have that information on hand, it becomes easier to strategize for the future.

4) Plan as much as you can in advance

Speaking of strategizing, the more you can do to map out everything you do — with collaboration from other departments — the better off your procurement team will be, Bizfluent added. That way, when one task is accomplished, you can always pivot to the next and continue to make the most of every hour you're at work.

5) Look at which parts of your company require the most attention

There are certainly some departments that will require more from the procurement team than others, and getting a better understanding of what they need and why can help both of you going forward, according to Centra Foods. This is just about getting everyone on the same page, but it can be extremely helpful to convene on occasion and discuss things.

6) Communicate more effectively with your suppliers

Just as you are trying to get on the same page as the other teams within your company, it's also important to do the same for dealing with your contacts at suppliers and shipping partners, Centra Foods noted. That way, you're always more aware of what each other need and how you can help both groups take that next big step in collaborating together.

The global supply chain was rocked by the novel coronavirus pandemic, and while the logistics industry has largely rebounded effectively, there are many changed perceptions about the sector now. Some of the things that were previously accepted as near-universal truths are now at least somewhat up in the air. With that in mind, it's a good idea to assess how freight companies are feeling about the state of the supply chain as 2021 rolls on.

The good news is the vast majority of shipping pros (more than 73%) believe shipping volumes will increase this year, up from a six-year low of about two-thirds seen heading into 2020, according to a recent survey from Averitt Express. But with that said, there is a potential area of concern about how capable companies are with handling everything that needs to be shipped; over the course of last year, almost 1 in 4 freight businesses experienced capacity challenges, more than double the number seen in 2019. The question of whether those firms have corrected course for 2021 is very much worth considering.

Port backups are still big problems in shipping.Port backups are still big problems in shipping.

Fortunately, experts seem to have a rosier outlook for some aspects of the industry; there was a significant decline in the share of experts who thought tariffs were hurting their bottom lines between 2019 and 2020, dropping from roughly 43.5% to less than 29%, the poll showed. Meanwhile, the number of companies that feel tariffs are actually helping their businesses more than doubled, to 8.4% from the previous 3.2%.

Lingering issues
A separate poll conducted by C.H. Robinson touched on a concern that has been increasingly mentioned in recent weeks: While other disruptions are becoming less of an issue, 3 out of 4 industry respondents believe there will be more delays in shipping from China due to backups at ports around the world. The good news is that the long tail of the pandemic has resulted in more companies putting contingency plans into place, allowing them to manage the lingering risk more effectively.

However, it's also worth noting that COVID-19 is still a major problem in many of the world's highly developed economies (perhaps most notably the U.S. and U.K.), and that could keep demand tamped down in some aspects of the supply chain, and dramatically heightened in others, the report said. For that reason, any company without a comprehensive plan to manage supply chain risk under COVID will need to craft one as soon as possible.

Getting up to speed
While the impact of the outbreak certainly caught a lot of companies flat-footed, many have effectively pivoted some or all of their operations to be at least somewhat more responsive, but some may not have done enough in this department, according to IoT World Today. Utilizing technology like the internet of things, cutting-edge data collection or analysis, among others, are likely to struggle more so than those that have made those kind of modern tools a central part of their operations.

Obviously, it's a good idea for companies to continually assess their readiness to handle any potential challenges they may encounter, so that no matter what arises over the course of 2021 — and beyond, they will be able to pivot as needed.

In 2019, I was on a Zoom call with 2 client employees (CFO and Telecom Manager), a telecom vendor service analyst and via audio only was her Manager.  The four of us were looking at a spreadsheet the service analyst had just finished explaining.   As I was speaking to why the figures presented did not appear to be accurate, an internal chat box appeared on the right side of our screens, the service analyst had no clue her chat was in our view.

"How is it going?"
"Tami's being "difficult" and is trying to explain why my figures are incorrect and the refund is due."

My immediate reaction: "If you were my employee you'd be fired on the spot!  You are hereby immediately removed from this account. We can all see your chat conversation. This call is over!"

 After regrouping with my client, I shared the photos of the chat box with her manager and the ownership of the telecom provider. 
The service analyst single handedly created a visual situation where our mutual client (who was already upset regarding a denied credit request for $10,000), saw the "behind the scenes" behavior of an employee who represented the telecom supplier. The client had been purchasing services from the  supplier for five years and the contracts were up for renewal in six months. 

 The result:

  • Our mutual client received several phone calls and apology emails (from the telecom supplier who included the Manager on the call, CEO and CIO).
  • There was no further discussion regarding the credit, it appeared on the next months' invoice.  
  • The service analyst was removed from the account.  
  • The client renewed their contracts with the telecom supplier earlier than the contract term date - their savings began four months ahead of the anticipated scheduled start date.
What was learned?
Clean your desktop prior to a virtual call and share only relevant content
Close all applications that do not pertain to the call.
Keep your call on  your main screen (left) and not your second or third viewing screen.
Pay attention when on a group call!

What is proper virtual meeting etiquette?

If you are like me the first question at the start of every virtual meeting, if I am the host - "Can you see my screen?". I do not trust the technology always works and each call is a presentation of materials and my skills to govern the call. Below is a checklist of items to consider before and during each virtual call.

Do use proper equipment:
Do not use your phone if possible, and if you must use your phone do not hold it... mount it somewhere.

Log in prior to the meeting:
Use the timer on our invitation or set a time to go off 5 minutes prior to the call... if the internet connection is bad you will have time to drop off and log in again. -WTOP News - March 2020

Do have a meeting agenda:
This goes back to the adage "time is precious, don't waste it."

Meeting length:
"Make sure that you keep the meeting as short as possible. Follow the agenda and squash side conversations from taking over. Remind everyone to speak clearly and concisely so that there's no need for repeating what was just said." - entrepreneur.com

Don't invite unnecessary people:
The more people on the call the more opinions and ideas that can be expressed... with that written, depending on the subject and reason for the call "additional cooks in the kitchen" will hinder the progress of the meeting, not accelerate it.

Clean your computer desktop:
Close all applications that are not part of the call. Have open and in share mode prior to the call the documents to be viewed by all.
If you use two monitors - put the meeting on your main monitor, not your secondary monitor.

Don't stand in front of a window:
Glare or a silhouette could be created - either way, not visually flattering. 
-WTOP News - March 2020

Do engage in some small talk:
This provides time for all to log in to the meeting and helps create a connection and camaraderie. I suggest safe topics - talk about the weather if the participants live in different states or if summer is approaching does anyone have vacation plans? - 
WTOP News - March 2020

Speak clearly and use good manners:

There's nothing worse than someone talking over you, and with virtual meetings (and cellular calls) it happens frequently if the visual feature is not used. If you are all “seeing” each other than speaking over someone just comes across as rude.

Suggestion – announce yourself when you sign into the meeting, but only during a pause when no one else is speaking.  When it is your turn to talk, speak clearly and slowly enough for everyone to follow your part of the conversation.
  - https://www.expressvirtualmeetings.com/

Do mute yourself when not talking:
Household noises, sounds of children, the dog barking, crumpling papers, typing meeting notes via your keyboard... are all NOISE distractions.

Don't Multitask:
Research has shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we like to think they are. In fact, some researchers suggest that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.

The Chat/Question portion of the platform - there is etiquette here too:
If using the text chat function of the platform - meaning everyone will see your question or comment please remember, that written word can also be interpreted by its look. Do not use all caps (that is shouting), use proper grammar and yes, spelling counts!

The “Corcentric Virtual Lunch Bunch”  meets the last Friday of each month at noon …virtually of course.  Would you like to join us?  Our next meeting is February 26th at noon.  

 If you would like  to join or wish additional information, please contact me (twankoff@corcentric.com) – all are welcome to attend and/or be a guest speaker on a topic related to working remotely.

 The group does not promote or sell business services.  The focus revolves around work at home topics/challenges and how to overcome them.


Automation is one of those things that sounds great in theory and can work great in actual practice, but getting from Point A to Point B in this regard is hardly ever easy or straightforward for any company. For that reason, if you are thinking about automating any aspects of your procurement processes, there's a lot to consider: You need to move forward with a comprehensive strategy to make your employees' lives easier and your operations more efficient.

First and foremost, you should keep in mind that when you are automating procurement processes, it doesn't have to be a whole-cloth endeavor, according to Frevvo. There may be some parts of your efforts that take a long time to fully implement, but they will be highly valuable. One of the most obvious benefits is that it brings all purchasing within a company or organization under one umbrella. You never have to worry about double-ordering or losing track of where any given order stands.

Among the many things a completely automated procurement effort can do for you is make it easier to create and process purchase orders, generate purchase requisitions, approve invoices and keep better records — all automatically. While you certainly do those things already in-house, being able to do it quickly, easily and seamlessly can unlock improvements to your behind-the-scenes efforts you might have never considered processes.

When you automate more of your procurement processes, you unlock high-level efficiency.When you automate more of your procurement processes, you unlock high-level efficiency.

What are the benefits?
When you automate your procurement processes on the whole, you may be able to lock previously unreachable levels of efficiency, in a number of ways, according to Kissflow. For one thing, processes that previously took a lot of time to complete manually — such as creating purchase orders — are now done in moments and will eliminate any manual errors (which themselves require significant time and effort to go back and correct).

In addition, relevant stakeholders will automatically receive alerts when they have to take action regarding a specific document, greatly reducing the likelihood that anything gets lost in the shuffle.

Getting it right
In addition to simply finding the software package that will work best for your specific needs, you must make sure it is implemented effectively for everyone on your team and collects all the right data you will need to streamline your procurement efforts on an ongoing basis, according to Negotiatus. That will require a bit of fine-tuning once everything is in place, but the idea is that when you start laying the groundwork, everything starts to improve slowly, then snowballs to a point where you are operating at peak efficiency thanks to your automation efforts.

With all of this in mind, procurement pros have a lot to think about when it comes to these strategic investments and how they will handle implementing them initially and getting everyone on the same page with them. There may be some ups and downs in the early days of adoption, but the end result will be a stronger, more effective procurement process for your entire organization.

A lot has changed in the past year when it comes to the way companies around the world do business, regardless of the industries in which they operate. However, that's probably particularly true as it relates to logistics and the supply chain, and many firms are now looking at ways they can be better partners and insulate themselves from some of the risk that became apparent amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak — and the slowdowns and shutdowns that followed — certainly caused many companies to take a look at their own operations and re-prioritize ways they can weather future storms, according to a recent survey from IBM. Today, 40% of business executives from a number of countries say they are putting a greater emphasis on improving the reliability of their own supply chains, with the ability to build in extra capacity for a potential future emergency.

The pandemic caused roughly two-thirds of respondents to look at initiatives they tried to implement around digital transformation in the past and push them through the resistance they previous faced, the report said. Nearly 3 in 5 say they have simply accelerated digital transformation efforts.

Shippers are still trying to untangle the mess of the 2020 supply chain.Shippers are still trying to untangle the mess of the 2020 supply chain.

A well-known name
One such major business is the luxury retail titan Nieman Marcus, which recently announced a number of strategic investments and hires to bolster its flexibility around the supply chain. Altogether, the company is devoting $85 million toward supply chain innovation around its underlying systems and fulfillment centers, including putting a new warehouse management system into place.

"As the demand for luxury products continues to grow, so does our supply chain network and infrastructure," said Willis Weirich, Nieman Marcus's executive vice president, group operations & chief supply chain officer. "These investments ensure that NMG can quickly deliver the luxury products our customers want."

Getting it right
Because of how damaging the pandemic has been to global supply chains, it should come as no surprise that firms of all stripes are still working through backlogs, and one recent examination of industry activity showed it may take even longer to fully unravel, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of the end of 2020, the number of all consumer goods shipped by sea increased by more than 18%, led by household appliances (a 73% increase), personal items (58%) and home furnishings (47%).

However, the ships used to transport all those goods encountered a different kind of problem upon crossing the Pacific: There was nowhere for them to be unloaded, the report said. At the end of January, almost three dozen ships were anchored off the coast of major ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach, with no clear timetable for when they can be integrated into the U.S. supply chain.

"The system is definitely strained," Phillip Sanfield, spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles, told S&P. "Under normal conditions, it's rare to have container ships waiting to get into the complex."

When it comes to these issues, there's not really a point at which companies should feel as though they've fully cracked supply chain efficiency. Instead, this should be a continual process of consistent improvement that all businesses strive for.

When you are working in the supply chain, you're usually juggling 100 different things at the same time, and it's not always easy to see the many different decisions that go into making your procurement processes successful. For that reason, you need to be able to keep a steady hand on the tiller even when things get difficult, and it starts by going back to basics to truly take control over your overall strategy.

The following ideas should help you strip everything down and truly understand the nuts and bolts of mastering a procurement plan:

1) Set benchmarks for all the data you can track

As an organization, you likely track a lot of different data all the time, but you have to understand what it means and where it should be in an ideal scenario, Accenture. The more you can do to set standards and track key performance indicators on an ongoing basis, the more comprehensive your look at what your procurement efforts are getting right, and where you need to make improvements.

2) Track more data

Part and parcel with the above advice, this business is certainly one in which it's very easy to find yourself in a situation where you just "don't know what you don't know," Accenture added. If you're not looking at all the data you possibly can that's pertinent to your overall procurement strategy, there's always going to be some fumbling around in the dark.

Is everyone involved truly aligned with your procurement needs?Is everyone involved truly aligned with your procurement needs?

3) Look to improve your relationships

Want to get more data and other benefits when it comes to dealing with your current supply chain partners? You should do more to bolster your relationships with them, according to industry expert Matthew Sparkes, speaking at a conference in London, as quoted by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply. Go to them with a proposal that says, "Help me help you," and try to align your goals and various aspects of your operations for greater success.

4) Always be in touch

You never want to be in a situation where you're not sure what's going on with a supply chain partner, so setting the expectation that you should be in regular communication is a must, Sparkes said. This helps ensure everyone has the same expectations for how the collaboration will go for as long as the partnerships last.

5) Collaborate across all departments

Just as you are doing more to collaborate externally, you should also do the same within your own company, according to marketing expert Greg Uhrlen, writing for LinkedIn. If you don't have a dedicated procurement department to tackle everything your company needs, you might find yourself missing out on opportunities to save money or streamline ordering, so it's better to get everything under one umbrella.

6) Leverage the right systems

Finally, as time goes on and your business processes change and evolve, you would be wise to make sure the various software offerings you utilize in your procurement processes are meeting your needs, Uhrlen advised. A regular assessment of what's working and what isn't could help you find new areas of investment that unlock even more efficiency.

As noted in this space previously, the administration of President Joe Biden has begun as many recent presidencies have: With a slew of executive orders that help craft the regulatory shape of the federal government. It's worth noting that the Biden administration is going where others have not, issuing a number of EOs specifically targeted at strengthening the American supply chain.

Of course, other presidents in recent years have not come into power during a global pandemic that highlighted all the shortcomings of a truly global supply chain, and made clear how much work needed to be done to shore things up at home to ensure the country can handle major disruptions in the future. One such EO includes directives on how the federal government should lay the groundwork for a more sustainable public health supply chain. After all, the lack of easily available medical equipment was a major problem in the early days of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the fact is that the outbreak is still a major issue even as the vaccine is being rolled out to tens of millions of people nationwide.

The U.S. health supply chain has a long way to go.The U.S. health supply chain has a long way to go.

In fact, much of the EO is directly related to ensuring the U.S. government can "act urgently and effectively to combat the [COVID] pandemic," including immediately securing more of the supplies needed to get the outbreak under control, and distribute as much as is possible to state, local, tribal and territorial governments and private health care concerns.

A welcome response
After the relatively poor progress made in the U.S.'s fight against the coronavirus over the previous year, those within the procurement sector were pleased with the Biden administration's swift action to address the issue, according to the Association for Supply Chain Management. A big reason for this praise is the Biden administration was careful to loop industry decision-makers and experts into the process of identifying areas of weakness in the national supply chain, and recommend best practices to address them. 

"As we've seen it's very difficult to address this pandemic on a city-by-city, state-by-state basis," the ASCM said in its statement. "We applaud this executive order calling to maximize public-private partnerships among government, healthcare, manufacturing and supply chain/logistics professionals to work together."

Putting the plan in action
Of course, there is a big difference between signing an executive order and putting together an effective plan to address the nation's shortcomings on this front, let alone actually seeing that plan through to completion, according to long-time health care executive Jack Bernard, writing for the Fayetteville Observer. Even as things have rolled out in the time since the EO was signed, it's clear that some states are handling the pandemic (and vaccine administration) far better than others, and this is not going to be an issue that will be solved in short order.

Time is obviously of the essence when it comes to dealing with the pandemic and inoculating enough people to bring national infection rates down to more manageable levels. As such, those in the health care supply chain may need to be more proactive about enacting changes to their operations.

As with many of his recent predecessors, the early days of President Joe Biden's administration has been marked by a host of executive orders to wrangle the power of his office for policy goals. One of those EOs is focused on forcing federal agencies to "buy American" whenever possible, meaning that companies that accept federal contractors will be required to be fully based within the U.S.

As one might imagine, there are many elements of federal rules and regulations that change with this new directive, including that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget create an internal "Made in America Office," Biden's order said. While companies could potentially get waivers for meeting these requirements, the OMB and MIAO would have to review them and then make a recommendation to the Administrator of General Services as to whether those waivers would be granted.

It's clear, however, that no matter what waivers are ultimately approved or denied, there could be a significant shift in the supply chain as a whole, and the impact on many businesses will be sizable.

New executive orders could bolster the U.S. supply chain.New executive orders could bolster the U.S. supply chain.

What's the industry sentiment?
Obviously this all comes while the U.S. is still in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has already led to massive adjustments (and readjustments) for the national and global supply chains. The limitations of a truly global supply chain have been laid bare and many within the industry believe the odds that businesses revert back to pre-pandemic levels simply out of convenience seem relatively low, according to NBC News. For many companies, the new rules around the Buy American EO are actually just a new benefit to them in addition to having already reshored a large percentage of their operations, but some entanglements may remain.

"Every component needs to be U.S.-sourced," Marisa Fumei-Smith, president of the textile manufacturer Two One Two New York, told the network. "Your fabric, your threads, any trimmings, down to the poly bags. Any stickers, labels, cartons, pallets. Every single component."

Nonetheless, "cautious optimism" is likely the key phrase for the industry as a whole, the report said. It may take some getting used to, but the ball was certainly already rolling in the right direction before the executive action.

What's at stake?
The collective size of federal contracts could be a boon to the U.S. economy, as the nation spends some $600 billion annually on those agreements and limiting them to companies that are 100% American-sourced can go a long way for businesses of all sizes, according to CNBC. Officials are quick to warn, however, that a big part of the effort isn't just to inject more money into American businesses, create jobs, drive innovation and all the other usual talking points. It's also to build up a more resilient domestic supply chain with a greater capacity overall.

With that in mind, companies based in the U.S. may want to have a careful look at their operations and see what they need to do to qualify for government contracts under the new executive order, or otherwise make themselves a better supply chain partner.

In the early days of the novel coronavirus pandemic, shortages and supply chain difficulties made a lot of headlines around the world, but for the most part, they have gotten back to normal. However, saying "for the most part" leaves room for the fact that there are some industries that are still being hit with major snags.

For example, a number of the world's largest and best-known auto manufacturers are currently dealing with major problems coming across the semiconductors they need to make modern vehicles, according to a report from The Financial Times. The reason why? The companies that make those critical computer components are reserving them for tech manufacturers that will use them in the manufacturing of smartphones, tablets, computers and similar devices.

The impact of this shortfall in production numbers is significant: Volkswagen says it will make 100,000 fewer cars in the first quarter of the year than it originally planned, and Nissan, Honda, General Motors and more announced production cuts of their own, the report said. Unfortunately, this is a long-tail effect of the pandemic, as major semiconductor manufacturers were forced to shut down in early and mid-2020, and lead times for rolling out orders is typically between six and nine months.

Vehicle semiconductors are in short supply these days.Vehicle semiconductors are in short supply these days.

A supply chain problem
It's worth noting that the vast majority of semiconductor production is not dedicated to the needs of automakers; only about 10% of the plants that produce these chips are dedicated to the automotive industry, according to a separate Financial Times report. meaning that these companies — giant though they may be in the grand scheme of things — don't have a lot of heft when it comes to demanding that chip manufacturers meet their production requirements. Indeed, computer and tech companies take precedence for chip manufacturers simply because they buy a lot more chips each year.

Already, it appears that number has surpassed a quarter-million and the industry is not remotely out of the woods yet, the report said. Expert estimates show that by the time this shortage is over, production of as many as 500,000 vehicles will have been pushed back worldwide.

Other issues
Another big part of the reason why semiconductor manufacturers are lagging when it comes to automotive production is because there are a lot more requirements that go into producing them for vehicles versus, say, an iPhone, according to Bloomberg. For instance, there are strict safety regulations that automakers and chip manufacturers must work together to meet, and it can take an average of eight weeks to ramp up production even if the chip is fully ready to manufacture.

With all of this in mind, it's certainly an issue that many in the sector will have to monitor going forward to ensure their production efforts aren't thrown too far off course by pandemic-related problems — or any others. Agility should be the watchword for any supply chain professionals, so that in just about any situation, they can pivot from one option to the next.

In the “old days” – once a meeting was scheduled via a phone call, we would either go to their office or take a potential client to lunch. Better yet, if a vendor wanted our business, they would offer to take us and to lunch!

With Covid-19 the “old days” are bygones, and we are all doing business socially distanced. The good news however, with technology, we can “see” each other.

Once a meeting time is agreed upon via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype or through a different on-line meeting medium…. 

Now what?

According to the University of Southern Mississippi – “consider investing in headphones” – this prevents echoes and interrupted audio from your immediate surroundings and provides clearer quality to your audience.

In addition, they suggest “consider the light source”.  We all look better in good light that is fact.  With the camera facing you – if you can sit facing a window or with a lamp in front of you will look your best.  If the light shines from behind, you will be in a shadow and your face will be difficult for others in your conversation to see you.

Getting the angle just right - Most providers have a “preview” mode for sound quality and a visual check before entering the meeting.   Take that moment to confirm the angle is accurate.  This is a check to confirm the camera is not aimed looking up your nose or focused on your forehead.

Posture - No slouching! Sitting tall is perceived as confident. Is your chair  comfortable? Does it have lumbar/back support? I suggest investing less than $25 and obtaining a lumbar support cushion that fastens to your chair if  you find that your back aches during the day. It eliminates the pressure from your lower back when sitting for long periods of time. 

I recently purchased a lumbar support cushion and I do not slouch if I am sitting back with my feet on  the ground or on my foot rest.  

 Eye Contact – look at the camera not the monitor picture which for many appears above/higher than the laptop or computer camera… a trick shared with me, that I use, is tape a photo of a loved one above and slightly  right of your camera... Camera eye contact takes -Practice, Practice, Practice!

Dress for the meeting - No one will know if you are wearing sneakers, but they will know if you are wearing a t-shirt or if your hair is disheveled – these two examples can be viewed as a lack of care towards the business to discuss at hand.  If you have a company logo'd shirt wear it!

Using the visual features of the medium during your call – Microsoft Teams and Zoom for example have the options to change your background or blur it out.  In my opinion, please do not use this feature… When you move your head, hands, shift your position on a chair, the picture “cracks” the look becomes shoddy and is a visual distraction.  Using a background such as the beach, space, mountain view – each by itself can create a distraction to the conversation and may reduce eye contact between the parties.  It can help create an icebreaker to see what is in the world behind the person you are speaking with.

I recently had a first call with a vendor and he immediately noticed in a plant behind me, sticking out of the dirt is a small Adelphi University pennant.

His first question, “Did you go to Adelphi?”
My reply “Graduated with a B.A. in 1987, do you attend?.”
“My mother-in-law is a professor there now.” – icebreaker!

Your Photograph – professional photos are cheap to acquire and worth the investment.  Looking at someone’s initials because they are camera shy or perhaps, do not have camera access is a hinderance to creating a connecting.  Presenting with a Photo should be the option taken when “live” is not possible.  When we know what the face to the voice looks like we are a step closer to being able to connect with the other party in our conversation.

For years I had a client which I never met in person.  I knew Mike’s voice from the hello without looking at the caller ID.  Mike has a deep Southern Texas twang; his use of the English language is crisp coupled with a dry sense of humor.   In my mind I established he was over 6” tall, had a mustache, a full head of hair, he dressed in a collared shirt with a tie.  First Skype meeting, I quickly discovered Mike is clean shaven, bald and no matter the weather outside he wears a polo shirt!  He told me from my voice he thought I was a redhead with curly hair!

Recording/taping the call via the features of the medium – ALWAYS TELL THE OTHER PARTY!  With Microsoft Teams and Zoom there is an itty-bitty red light that flashes to indicate recording but not all people would notice it…  I bring this up, like having your photo taken, you want your best look (no wrinkled shirt, no hunched shoulders) or better yet, maybe you want to cease showing your live self and put your stock photo on the screen.

Your behind the scenes environment - What others do not see is just as important to creating the Virtual Meeting Atmosphere... 

  • Is the room temperature comfortable?
  • Is your chair comfortable?
  • Is there clutter in your view behind the monitor or on the wall?
  • What is the smell of the room/area you are working in?  (if your dog needs a bath and is under the desk at your feet - the smell of the room may not be so pleasant!)
  • Do you have a beverage of choice within reach? (It appears to be acceptable to drink from a mug during a virtual meeting - If you do, I suggest a company mug... keep the brand you represent visible.)

March will be a year since the  work from home business community began, we all accept the less than professional office “look,” but we all have the tools to create the professional business meeting.

The “Corcentric Virtual Lunch Bunch”  meets the last Friday of each month at noon …virtually of course.  Would you like to join us?  Our next meeting is February 26th at noon.  

 If you would like  to join or wish additional information, please contact me (twankoff@corcentric.com) – all are welcome to attend and/or be a guest speaker on a topic related to working remotely.

 The group does not promote or sell business services.  The focus revolves around work at home topics/challenges and how to overcome them.