Women in Procurement: Leading the Charge for Change

In the ever evolving landscape of procurement, women are stepping forward, not just as participants but as leaders and changemakers. The recent “Women in Procurement Day,” held at the UKCEH in Wallingford, aimed to bring together female leaders to share their expertise, inspire career advancement, explore future trends and address gender disparities within the field.

Breaking Down Barriers

The procurement sector, like many others, has long been dominated by men, with women often facing significant barriers to entry and advancement. These barriers are multifaceted, encompassing everything from unconscious bias to institutionalised discrimination. At the event, it was highlighted that women often encounter ingrained beliefs leading to unnoticed prejudice. These biases manifest in various forms, such as the bandwagon effect, anchoring bias and confirmation bias, which can skew decision-making processes and limit opportunities for women.

To counter these biases, structured decision-making and diverse review panels were recommended. Additionally, fostering a culture of continuous improvement using Lean principles and Kaizen events can help in creating an inclusive and equitable work environment.

Building Networks and Mentorship

Networking and mentorship emerged as crucial themes during the event. Women were encouraged to build supportive networks and proactively seek what they need to succeed. Mentorship and coaching were identified as essential tools for navigating careers and overcoming challenges such as the glass ceiling and maternal penalties. Creating and maintaining a strong, authentic personal brand was also emphasised, with platforms like LinkedIn being valuable for building professional profiles, connecting with others and showcasing achievements.

Embracing Technology and Innovation

The role of technology and innovation in procurement cannot be overstated. Leveraging data, analytics, automation and AI can help to drive efficiency and sustainability, creating new opportunities for women in the sector. Embracing digital transformation and innovative digital solutions was highlighted as a vital strategy for advancing procurement functions and supporting capacity building.

Ethical Leadership and Governance

Commitment to ethical leadership and robust governance is paramount in building trust and credibility in procurement. Women leaders were urged to prioritise these values, ensuring transparency and accountability in their roles. Ethical leadership also involves advocating for workplace equality and addressing unconscious biases that affect supplier selection and diversity.

Personal and Professional Growth

Investing in personal and professional growth is essential for women in procurement. Structured development plans, feedback, mentoring and coaching were recommended to help women advance in their careers. Understanding one’s values, strengths and weaknesses and motivators is crucial for better navigating career paths. Moreover, resilience and self-worth are key attributes that women need to cultivate. Being able to shake off imposter syndrome that a lot of women tend to foster will be an enabler to help women to face challenges and achieve success in procurement and beyond.

Moving Forward

The “Women in Procurement Day” event served as a powerful reminder of the potential women have to transform the procurement landscape. By breaking down barriers, building strong networks, embracing technology and committing to ethical leadership, women can not only advance in their careers but also pave the way for future generations of female leaders.

The journey towards gender equality in procurement is ongoing; with the right strategies and support systems in place, women can continue to lead the charge for change, creating a more inclusive and dynamic sector for all.

5 tips for Procurement leaders to take control of cyber risks in their suppliers

Cyber attacks cause 50% of all supply chain disruption. Not only that, but all of the data shared with suppliers – from staff and customer data to commercially sensitive details – is only as safe as your organisation’s least secure vendor. When a supplier is successfully attacked, the financial, reputational and regulatory impact on your business can be profound.

With this established, it is clear why governments and regulators (including in Britain) are increasing the pressure on businesses to take control over their supplier cyber risk exposure. Even in organisations with established cybersecurity teams, this inevitably results as a burden upon procurement teams. But with the correct planning, tools and support in place, this can have a very positive impact – both financially and on the wider KPIs against which teams are measured. 

Engage your team from the beginning

Cybersecurity is inherently technical – but Procurement teams don’t need to be. With advances in technology (and the availability of comprehensive support), Procurement professionals don’t need to be computer scientists in order to manage their supplier cyber risks. With that said, your Procurement colleagues are human and understanding why the risks they are managing matter will help them to engage with the tools and processes you put in place.

“Our most successful clients all have one thing in common” says Charles Clark, co-founder of Darkbeam. “They make sure their team understand why managing cyber risks among suppliers has a positive impact on wider supplier performance measures. This increases adoption of risk management measures and consistently leads to a greater reduction in risk exposure across the supply chain than organisations who enforce a top-down approach.”

Through our partnership with Darkbeam, Novo-K Cyber+ provides supplier cyber risk management workshops, structured training and on-demand materials for all Procurement teams within all of our cyber risk management engagements.

Embrace automation

The ‘default’ approach to cyber risk management in the supply chain is to add more technical questions to an organisation’s supplier questionnaire. Sadly, this generally adds to the workloads of Procurement teams (and suppliers!) but provides a very limited amount of actionable, up-to-date visibility of risk levels.

“Supplier questionnaires have their place” says Charles Clark, Darkbeam Co-Founder. “But for a risk factor as fast-moving as supply chain cybersecurity, Procurement teams need up-to-date, consistent visibility that they can use to make decisions. Automation allows for the speed and scale required to get a true picture of supply chain cyber risks so that organisations can protect themselves against costs, data breaches and disruption.”

Darkbeam, our supplier cyber risk management partners, offer a comprehensive, automated platform which removes the manual work from assessing and monitoring cybersecurity risks among suppliers. 

Don’t ignore the tail 

Because of the perceived costs and complexity associated with supplier cyber risk management, many organisations adopt a ‘critical suppliers’ approach. Whilst this is better than no approach at all, it leaves the business exposed to an unknown level of risk – financially, operationally, reputationally and legally.  

“Some of our lowest spend, seemingly least critical suppliers leave us open to the highest level of cybersecurity risk” says Kavita Cooper, Managing Director of Novo-K. “From a purely data perspective, all of that information we share with niche, specific suppliers could be hugely embarrassing or legally consequential if it was stolen by hackers. Data aside, cyber attacks call half of all supply chain disruption – how many of our direct suppliers would be inconsequential if they were suddenly unable to deliver their products or services with no notice and no idea when supply with resume?” 

Novo-K Cyber+ monitor cyber risk levels among all of your suppliers as standard. This gives you the visibility you need to make decisions, while an intelligent approach to communicating risk within your team prevents an unmanageable deluge of alerts being created. 

Involve your suppliers

The fact that your supplier cyber risk management process isn’t solely reliant upon self-reported supplier questionnaires doesn’t mean that your suppliers are not a crucial part of the risk reduction process. Modern automated tools allow you and your suppliers to access the same information regarding their vulnerabilities and risk levels. This empowers a collaborative approach, in which both businesses benefit in an efficient, demonstrable way.

“Collaboration is an important element of any supplier relationship.” says Kavita Cooper of Novo-K. We encourage all organisations to work with their suppliers – using the incredible technologies available – to reduce supplier cyber risk levels across the board. Set clear goals and expectations, be clear about how they will be measured and collaborate on risk reduction activities. It leads to higher success rates and, thanks to automated tools, still takes less time than manual questionnaires.”

Novo-K Cyber+ powered by Darkbeam allows you to share all of your cyber risk analysis with the relevant supplier, so they see the same information you do. Combined with our Procurement expertise, you can collaboratively monitor adherence to clauses and policies with a lower workload than manual assessment.

Standardise reporting 

As we have established, supplier cyber risk is a business risk. To highlight the value created by your new risk management programme, it should be reported as such. At the very least, numerical risk reporting allows reductions to be shown clearly on a report. For best-in-class supplier cyber risk reporting, embrace a ‘value at risk’ approach to financially quantifying impact.  

“Businesses think in finances” says Charles Clark of Darkbeam. “As Procurement, we report our spend under management, cost savings, cost avoidance and often productivity in pounds and pence – there is no reason that our supplier cyber risk management activities should not be reported in the same way. It’s comparatively easy now to calculate supplier cyber risk exposure as a financial risk and share it across the business. This not only makes it ‘real’ for our colleagues but also ensures Procurement’s continued involvement in strategic risk conversations.” 

Through automated dashboards and bespoke KPI reporting, we help you to demonstrate the meaningful risk reductions achieved through your supplier cyber risk management programme from day one, supporting business buy-in and staff engagement. 

Building Your Recruitment Marketing Strategy

Building a marketing strategy to promote your job advert is of utmost importance in the current economic climate. Your job opportunity is going to be in competition with numerous other openings, so a normal job advert could easily be ignored. According to Paula Page, our Head of Procurement and Sustainability Recruitment, the only way to attract passive job seekers is by making sure your opportunity stands out. Therefore, it is crucial to build a reliable marketing strategy that successfully advertises your opportunity. Here are some tips she suggests!

The first step to making sure your job opportunity stands out is to develop its visual design. The appearance of the advert is as important as the content it carries. Ensure that you use imagery and font that is aesthetically appealing, while maintaining the overall structure of the job description. This makes the job vacancy stand out as well as provide an indication of what your organisation does and the larger culture it follows.

You should view your own advertisement through the eyes of the candidate and ask yourself, ‘would I apply to this role if I saw the advertisement?’

Nowadays, most job advertisements will be viewed on a mobile phone. It is, therefore, important that the format of your job advert is mobile-friendly and can easily be viewed and accessed by mobile phone users. It is also important to ensure that the application process is user-friendly making it easy for applicants to apply for the vacancy. Make sure your marketing strategy pays attention to the smallest details when it comes to advertising your job opportunity!

While there are multiple channels through which you can advertise your job vacancy, it is important to prioritise those that give you the best possible return of applications and those that are right for your specialist areas. Consider those channels through which you and your peers applied for jobs as well! Always think about how your advert is going to look to your wider professional network.

Social media is an effective way to market your job advert as the online traffic on social media platforms never runs out. LinkedIn, for example, is one of the biggest social media platforms that caters to building professional networks. So, keep in mind how your advert appears on a platform such as LinkedIn; whether it stands out as you scroll through your feed.

While digital marketing is the predominant method of advertising job vacancies, do not be too quick to disregard print adverts. Depending on the seniority of the vacant position, consider advertising via the press!

Your aim is to target to the right candidate group for your job vacancy.

If you have approached an external party, like a recruitment agency, make sure you have partnered with a specialist agency. It is essential that the team designing and marketing your advert fully understands how you want it to look and most importantly, how your organisation would be viewed by the wider community who will be seeing your advertisement.

Apart from the usual ways you can advertise your vacancy, consider creating a video advertisement! It is a powerful way of marketing your job opportunity. If your team is comfortable appearing on video, ask them to introduce themselves so that potential applicants can visualise what it would be like to work in your organisation. A video advertisement will help to capture the culture of your workplace and the video could even introduce the key stakeholders that the candidate would be working with daily. Video adverts are a powerful way of ensuring your role stands out amongst all the other vacancies in the market. Make sure you do not limit yourself when trying to find the optimal way to stand out amongst other job adverts, because ultimately the aim of marketing your job opportunity is to get the attention of those passive job seekers who will be a perfect fit for your organisation.

Once your recruitment process has a reliable marketing strategy to follow, it is time to think about the route you are going to take to recruit the candidate; whether it is going to be direct recruitment, or whether it is through an external recruitment organisation. Regardless of the route you take, it is imperative that everybody involved in the recruiting process understands exactly what your organisation is looking for to ensure that the advertised position will prove to be successful within your team. Hence, make sure you have invested enough time in fully briefing your recruitment team on the advertised role and how it can not only benefit the wider organisation, but the candidate as well, thereby highlighting each feature and benefit offered by the role.

Some of the most successful recruitment processes carry information delivered by those who are passionate to work in their organisation. So, make sure that voice is carried forward to the hiring partner who will eventually echo it in the job posting. Understanding every detail about the role will help in matching it against the experience levels of potential candidates, making it easier to put the right candidates through to the next round of selection.

Key takeaways on how to build an effective recruitment marketing strategy:

  • Use imagery and font that makes your job advert stand out!
  • Make your job advertisement mobile-friendly
  • Prioritise advertising through channels that give you the best possible return of applications and those that are right for your specialist areas
  • Think of different ways you can advertise your vacancy – consider video adverts!
  • Choose between direct or external recruitment processes

Not Just an Average Job Description!

In today’s market, it is especially important to think about how you are writing your job description. You are trying to attract passive job seekers who may not be actively looking for a new job opportunity. Therefore, you need to carefully consider how you write your job description, to ensure you are advertising your position in the best possible way. We asked Paula Page, our Head of Procurement and Sustainability Recruitment on how to best write a job description. Here’s what she suggests!

Firstly, focus on how your job description is structured; have you introduced your organisation and highlighted its culture in the job description? Will potential applicants understand the position and the opportunities that are offered within the role and how it can benefit their career? Does the job description describe the overall strategy of the team and how this role will help deliver that strategy? Make sure that these details are covered in your job description.

Since your priority is to attract the top talent for your organisation, it is imperative that your job description mentions the benefits offered by the vacancy. Focus on providing training and development information that may be relevant to candidates who are seeking significant advancements in their careers. Many candidates who may already be employed may seek opportunities for career progression that their current organisation may not be offering. If they see a job description that emphasises the training they would receive and how the role could lead to future career growth, it might entice them to apply for the vacancy.

Although it is important to make your job description attractive enough to the candidate, it is as important if not more, that you mention how impactful the vacant role will be to the wider team and the overall organisation. Ordinarily, there may be more junior members in a team. So, make sure you mention whether this role would mentor those individuals or whether the role itself would be mentored by more senior members. If so, highlight how such mentorship can help candidates on their CIPS journey or other qualifications that will help further advance their career.

Throughout the process of structuring your job description, keep in mind that you are trying to attract those passive job seekers. So, use this as a chance to entice them into applying for the role. Observe your job description and ask yourself if it excites you if you were in the applicant’s position. Because if your job description does not seem enticing to you and your team, it will not stand out to the passive job seekers you are trying to attract to this position.

Beginning Your Recruitment Process

The recruitment market is extremely buoyant at present with a high demand for experienced procurement and sustainability professionals. In such a market, it is undeniable that there is a struggle to find the right talent. There are numerous aspects to the recruitment process that may be overlooked. It is important that these are acknowledged and most importantly, implemented.

To begin with, think about the deliverables of the offered position and what role this position will take in helping to deliver the procurement or sustainability strategy within an organisation. If this is not decided at the very beginning of writing a job description, it could lead to a significant lack of clarity on what exactly the job entails. Therefore, it is essential to keep in mind the various factors related to those key projects and the potential candidate – on whether the individual is going to lead those key projects, or be a part of delivering them, etc – and to ensure that this has been mentioned in the job description. Additionally, mention the key benefits your organisation offers, its overall culture and why you love working for your organisation. A great place to start is to personalise the narrative by sharing why you like working for your organisation and what keeps you working there.

Once you have decided upon the deliverables of the position and how you are going to communicate them, it is time to think of how you are going to recruit this position. You are either going to follow a direct recruitment process, or go through a talent acquisition or HR team, or through a recruitment specialist. It is crucial to choose the right process that attracts the right applicants since we are currently in a market where there is a shortage of available candidates. Your priority lies in attracting passive job seekers – those who are not actively looking for a new position but who may be open to a good career opportunity if one came along. When you are approaching your recruitment process, make sure you think, “how am I going to appeal to somebody who isn’t actively looking in the market at the moment?” This line of thought additionally helps to decide the marketing strategy; how and where you are going to advertise the job vacancy.

In the current market, recruiters cannot stick to traditional routes of hiring. The process demands that we think creatively and utilise trending methods and platforms. This is essential when you are required to market your vacancy. LinkedIn is a great platform for posting your vacancy, whether you do this via your personal account, your organisation’s page, or traditional job boards. What is important is to recognise which platform acts as the best option to attract procurement and sustainability professionals. Additionally, be sure you do not limit your process to a single medium. Explore other channels through which the vacancy can be advertised. Videos are powerful. It is a fantastic way of advertising your organisation and conveying your company culture, while also introducing the team that this individual is going to be working with, and the wider stakeholders that they may be interacting with.

In a market where it is a struggle to balance the difficulty in finding the right talent while maintaining a visible presence amongst competitors, it is crucial that your organisation has a thorough recruitment process. This will make your opportunity stand out to those passive job seekers, compared to other opportunities in the market.

How Procurement Can Progress Sustainability and Circular Supply Chains

As sustainability has risen to the top of the business agenda rapidly, the procurement function has been given the opportunity to lead the change and innovate towards a better future.

Concepts for circular economy in supply chains and improvements across sustainable procurement practices have passed through businesses for some time.

However, large organisations have made significant investments this year, including IKEA’s production of circular mattresses, Coca Cola’s pilot using bottles made from 100% recycled plastic, and Nissan’s announcement of its aim to produce 100% of Electric Leaf vehicles using renewable energy.

We spoke to procurement professionals around ways to support the progress of sustainability.

Focus on whole-life cost

Stephen Whyte, managing director at supply chain software firm QADEX, highlighted that, a ‘systemic change’ is needed especially within the fast fashion industry as clothing sold extremely cheaply is likely to have potential sustainability risks.

“We all need to be the sustainability experts in our own circle of control ­— from businesses to consumers.”

“The model of cheapest first is not always necessarily going to work in the future. We will have to focus on the total lifecycle cost of production, including the carbon footprint and modern slavery, and look at a balanced scorecard of people planet, and profit,” he said.

“That’s why it’s a systemic challenge, not just a mindset change needed in a single department or function.”

Robert Bonnar, global procurement director at energy firm SHV Energy, added that for sustainability to progress procurement need to adopt a holistic, total cost of ownership approach. “The total business case will work, but might not fit with the traditional profit and loss & balance sheet because you’re trying to implement a different business model.

“Instead of ‘how cheap can I get this new material’, it’s about understanding the cost from a holistic view through the full lifecycle. For example, finding ways to extend the life cycle or improve the usage — rather than buying more — can really optimise costs,” he said.

Drive consumer choice

While procurement usually take the lead from consumer demand, it’s time for the function to take the stage for driving value through the business.

Andy Neilson, founder of procurement consultancy Twisted Orange and commercial director at Novo-K, said: “Procurement can be that conduit for change because a lot of consumers need educating as well.”

It’s a cycle of suppliers educating procurement on the innovation opportunities that can support sustainability targets, which educates the business and expands market competition, enabling consumers to make healthier choices, he added.

Whyte highlighted that its vital to get buy-in from other stakeholders, and procurement plays a key role in communicating the benefits of investing more in products that benefit people and the environment, so that the businesses can bring consumers on board.

Innovation through collaboration

Supplier innovation is the fuel that generates new sustainability solutions, from alternative packaging to improved recycling technology, but organisations need to support these efforts by coordinating needs, investing and helping carry the risks.

Bonnar said: “If you think you’re interested in circular economy or sustainability, your supply chain is investing ten times as much as you are, so tapping into that is key to building the momentum together.”

“They’re also in tune with the market trends and competitors’ movements so building effective supplier relationships, especially on matters of innovation, will be the difference between whether you’re at the forefront of your industry or just trying to catch up with everyone else.”

According to Neilson, good supplier relationship management is having the time, resource and mandate to focus on relationships, not just cost management, and understand how to balance short-term commercial benefit against long-term overall benefits.

Identify circular opportunities and simple solutions

Peter Smith, procurement author and founder of consultancy Procurement Excellence, said companies need to start by defining who their stakeholders are, what they care about and what the business is trying to achieve, in order to identify their sustainability area of focus.

For example, a timber company will prioritise sustainable sourcing to address deforestation, while it might be more beneficial for a cosmetics firm, where most of the customers are female, to donate 10% of profits to educating girls in the developing world or supporting diverse female-owned businesses, he explained.

Smith also highlighted the importance of close cross-departmental relationships between the sustainability and procurement function internally, as well as external collaborations, to build circular economy.

“It’s not just collaboration between the buyer and the supplier, it often goes deeper to include the regulators, government agencies, and industry bodies. While circular supply chains are still in their early days, some of the biggest impacts are being made through mass industry initiatives,” he added.

Similarly, Bonnar cautioned against over-complicating solutions as often processes or materials need improving not reinventing. He highlighted the example of steel cylinders used to store gas which are already recyclable, but could benefit logistically from being made more lightweight.

“Sometimes in a drive for circularity, we can lose sight of the really simple solutions we’ve already got. Make sure that you retain the positives, your innovation should be an improvement, not just taking one slightly imperfect solution and implementing a different, slightly imperfect solution,” he added.

Map with the purpose of measuring

Neilson warned that a lot of corporate news can be PR and doesn’t go far enough to deliver results, saying that too often organisations use the difficulty of measurability as a scapegoat, because if they measure it, they’ll have to manage it.

Supply chain mapping is the main action required to build better visibility in the road to measuring sustainability ­— the shortfalls, opportunities and achievements — as is common with managing a key risk area. Once actions to implement sustainable solutions have been made, contract management is the next step to safeguarding requirements established with suppliers and monitor positive impacts.

Smith said: “For many government contracts, there’s going to be a demand that buyers include a 15% evaluation weighting for social value / sustainability. How this will be done still needs to be clearer however, and contract management and reviews need to be taken more seriously. They are a key part in ensuring suppliers do what they promise.”

Bonnar added that you can’t simply let it run in the background, you need to stay engaged with suppliers and embed continuous improvement and innovation in contracts.

“You should be looking at having key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreements (SLAs) to benchmark your sources of logistics, energy utilities, more recyclability in packaging, as well as building that customer of choice/partnership aspect in,” he said.

Overcoming 8 barriers to procurement transformation

This article has been written by Stuart Dunk, Managing Director of Dont Forget to Look.

I’m a firm believer that 80% of procurement’s role in an organisation, is earning the right to do some procurement.

Recently, consultancy The Hackett Group identified eight barriers to procurement transformation (What are the eight barriers to procurement transformation? – Supply Management (cips.org), and it just reinforces my instinct. No, perhaps it’s more like 90%. And it’s not even ‘transformation,’ it’s simply the day-to-day showing up and trying to do a great job in a great team.

I really liked Kavita Cooper’s (MD at procurement firm Novo-K) thoughts on overcoming those barriers.

Here are 3 of mine.

Team culture drives team performance

Start with sitting down as a team, thinking about and articulating ‘Why are we here, who are we, and what are we here to do?’ before diving into the work. (Check out ‘Drexler-Sibbet high performance’ on the search engine of your choice!) Teams who unite around a shared purpose and identity will feel like they are part of something, they will have a high degree of focus, trust and problem solving.

These teams can rely on each other, they are open to share ideas without fear, and they give and receive feedback for the good of their team, never from a position of ego. This is just the sort of commando unit you want to unleash into the complex and fluid landscape of delivering value for stakeholders.

Treat your procurement team like a brand

What do all brands need? Well, lots of things, but if we think of a typical sales funnel, first comes Awareness. Some internal procurement teams just don’t have awareness amongst the stakeholder
groups they serve, (let alone any consideration or preference), so why should we expect them to use our services?

Procurement teams who commit to take their message out into the stakeholder base in a structured and intentional way, will outperform teams who don’t, across any procurement metric you care to mention: savings, revenue, contract coverage, spend under management… my favourite? Go a step further, ask your stakeholders to do a NPS score twice per year!

Get obsessed about the stakeholder universe and what they need. What are they spending their money on? How does it tie to wider business needs? What problems or goals do they have?

Get yourselves an invite to the team meeting of a budget holder and demystify procurement for them. Ask for 5 mins to introduce yourself and what procurement is. Leave a couple of slides behind so they can check back later. Then don’t be afraid to share things you’ve seen in the supply market that have relevance and immediacy based on what you know of the business and stakeholder needs: keep that awareness high, and if you are timely, relevant, and open, you’ll quickly progress down that ‘sales funnel’ to working hand in hand.

Influencing and Persuasion

In procurement we’re supposed to be good at negotiating, right? If my 80-90% mentioned at the beginning is true, then it follows that a good chunk of this 80-90% is influencing the internal stakeholders to work with us.

Dr Cialdini, a professor of both psychology and marketing, explains that which we may intuitively recognise once we see his shortcuts to influence in black and white in a page: people work with people they like, who have authority on a subject, and who have done something for that person already. (That’s 3 out of 6! Check the rest out more on Dr C here: Robert Cialdini – Wikipedia)

It follows that procurement needs to have the right amount of skill (through experience, coaching and previous work) to show a level of subject matter expertise, but simply showing up and offering to help or sharing ideas, will generate the sense of liking and reciprocity that also helps us get closer to the needs of the stakeholder, and a seat at the table to work on the ‘procurement stuff’ of RFIs, RFPs, supplier negotiations, contracts, etc


‘Trusted partner’ status does not come over night. Spend 90% of your time understanding what the business needs, what your stakeholders have to deliver; help them get to know you: how to engage
you, and the different types of value you can bring, then the projects will come, the savings will come, but just as importantly, the job will be a joy.

We can pay for all the training and coaching the company will give us. We can hire the most expensive consultancies and leaders, but if you are new to procurement or finding your way anywhere in business, just remember that people work with people they want to work with because they enjoy it, not just because there might be a business goal.

Ask, then listen. Be interested, show that you care and how you can help. The common ground will grow, and the resistance will evaporate.

If you work in procurement at a brand and would like to discuss how to optimise the relationship with stakeholders, to avoid and overcome any barriers to unleashing the full effectiveness of your procurement function, please reach out at hello@dontforgettolook.com or via Linked In

Auther bio:

Stuart Dunk is a former marketing procurement lead at brands like Nike and Danone, and runs marketing procurement and marketing operations coaching and consultancy Don’t Forget to Look, where he now works with both brands and agencies to deliver better work, demystifying the who, what and why of procurement along the way.

Are your suppliers in trouble?

When the UK moved into lockdown (March 2020), Novo-K advised our clients to reach out to key suppliers and request copies of their Business Continuity Plans (BCP). This enabled our clients to gain an understanding of the impact to their business and ensure that their own BCP’s were adequate. It also meant they could then update their customers accordingly.

As lockdown took hold and the furlough scheme was announced, we found suppliers became a little more proactive at sending COVID statements and updating their websites. Then from mid-April, it was radio silence!

With restrictions being tightened and government employee support changing, it is important we reach out to understand the longer-term impact on our suppliers and the services they provide. Whilst we recommend to conduct regular risk assessments, we should keep an eye out for suppliers that are in trouble as this can sometimes occur overnight.

Alarm bells – What to look out for?

1.     Payment

Are suppliers chasing for payment and requesting improvements on payments terms? If they are long standing incumbents, who have not done this before and this is unusual behaviour, it’s imperative to get in touch immediately to find out why. This behaviour, whether an new or old relationship is a clear indicator that a business is in distress, cash flow is a problem and the leadership team are scrutinising their financial accounts.

2.      Service levels

Whilst we know many organisations have taken advantage of the furlough scheme, it has had a knock-on effect to service delivery. We have seen lead-times for service and goods delivery increase with some businesses having to switch off or being unable to provide Service Level Agreement (SLA) reporting. A drop in service level may be workable for the short-term but it is important to understand the supplier’s longer term plans (based on few different scenarios).

 3.      Lack of transparency

Whilst the furlough scheme may mean fewer account management meetings, key activity should continue. For example BCP’s should be updated or reviewed and statements regarding the impact of return to work or social distancing should be shared. If a supplier has become quiet, less engaged and providing lots of excuses, then we should question why they are avoiding us, what are they not telling us and whether we need to take immediate action to gain more clarity.

Why are regular risk assessments critical?

As we navigate through the fallout and ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, it is important to build good transparent relationships with suppliers. We must work with suppliers to understand and overcome the challenges.

If problems are not communicated, they cannot be fixed!

Supplier risk assessments are going to be a key business activity in the coming months, followed by contract and supplier relationship management. Whilst COVID-19 is still prominent and directly impacting on business delivery, assessments should be carried out quarterly, monthly reviews for critical suppliers, From the output you can, build mitigation plans, growth plans, and most importantly provide confidence to employees, shareholders, and clients/customers.

Where to begin?

In the first instance, identify key suppliers. These may not be the highest spend but will be the suppliers that are crucial to delivery or those that could create the biggest risk should their services/supplies be affected. Once identified, next key action is to complete a credit check. There is usually a time lag with the data so this should only form part of your assessment, as it may not show the ‘as is’ situation.

Work with operational teams to produce a set of key questions to provide the reassurance needed. This may come from the BCP or from the company’s experiences to date with the supplier. At the first stage keep the questions quite generic. This enables quick distribution to a wide number of suppliers. Follow up with specific questions for a deep dive analysis with key suppliers.

Questions include should cover the impact of the furlough scheme or upcoming employee scheme, whether their other clients have been impacted and whether they have conducted checks on their own supply base.

The information returned by suppliers needs to be captured, evaluated and incorporated into your plans. Make sure everything is managed, ideally through formal contract management, not filed and picked up in 3 months’ time when the next assessments take place. This activity should be monitored and proactively managed for continuous improvement.

Whether you need support carrying out risk assessment or contract management for your suppliers the Novo-K team are available to help your organisation.

For more information on our Risk and Assurance of Supply Assessments visit: www.novo-k.com/rasa Email:   support@novo-k.com  Telephone: 01252 761243

Losing Revenue?… Focus on Profit Improvement!

Throughout the lock-down phase of COVID -19, many businesses took a huge hit to their revenue. Whilst some are on the journey to recovery, many are still struggling with the gap in their numbers and others have had no choice but to bow out.

Business will continue to focus on growth but whilst sales are struggling, to maintain the financial health of an organisation and keep the lights on, it is critical for organisations to focus on profit improvement and cost transformation.

The big question is, where to start?

Whenever we begin any procurement activity or a new project, we need to understand the current state of play, the current landscape and gain a holistic view. Once we have an understanding of the issues, we can start to build programmes, projects and action plans, set goals, objective and milestones. This is no different when planning a profit improvement or cost reduction programme; it should start with the analysis of third party spend data.

Typically, third party (supplier) spend is around 20-30% of total spend. Supplier spend will depend on the type of an organisation or the services offered i.e. care service organisations may be more resource heavy than a tech companies, therefore PAYE spend would be a greater portion of their overall outgoings. The challenge for many organisations is finding and extracting this financial information in the first instance.

The finance team can usually provide enough data to get out of the starting blocks. If the value and importance of this data to meet strategic objectives can be demonstrated to finance, then it can be worked upon and improved over time. Collaboration with finance is key to maintaining the quality of the data!

Once you have your data extracts, you will want to do some general tidying up. This is a resource heavy activity and whilst it can be done internally, there are benefits to using an external party with expertise and access to helpful tools. This can speed up the process and the improve accuracy of the output.


When using an external party, make sure you

have the correct agreements in place to cover data

protection and the relevant insurance

5 Example reports you can produce:

1.  Addressable spend – This is spend that can be reduced through negotiation or re-tendering versus non-addressable i.e. debt, tax or a brand-new contract. For the addressable spend, a typical procurement saving can be up to 20%. You should calculate whether there is an ROI if you allocate internal resource to deliver it.

2.  Top spend suppliers – Typically, 80% of your spend comes from the top 20% of suppliers (pareatos law). If this top spend is also addressable spend you can build tactical and quick win plans. Often, you find you are buying more than you require due to lack of insight and analysis. As we all know, the best way to save money, is to not spend it in the first place!

3.  Tail spend – Tail spend is typically 20% of your overall spend but can deliver the quickest savings, in most cases switching off the supplier on the system and stopping rogue spending can make a big impact. This isn’t the most popular programme in an organisation, and we would recommend it is well managed when it comes to communications – keep stakeholders informed and onside.

4.  High volume of invoices – For efficiency improvements, you can find suppliers with an excessive number of invoices and help to reduce them. The costs associated with invoice processing time can be as high as £6 per invoice. For one of clients, we reduced invoices from one supplier from 897 to 12 (saving the company approx. £4k per year in invoice processing!

5.  Similar products/services – Another quick win opportunity is to look at suppliers where you buy similar items through multiple suppliers or where you have an existing contracted supplier that offers services that you go other parties for. By consolidating suppliers, you can negotiate better pricing, better terms and easier contract manage. You will benefit from increased efficiencies too.

Analysing your spend and suppliers data can seem like a daunting task which is easier to delay than work through. It’s better to start than never try. If you need support with this Novo-K can help. Contact support@novo-k.com for more information.

What is sustainable procurement?

Sustainable procurement takes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles and integrates them into an organisation’s procurement policy and processes. In the past few years, the term ‘Triple bottom-line’ has also gained traction. Organisations are looking beyond profit to include social and environmental issues to both measure the full cost of doing business and meet sustainability goals.

Profit + People + Planet=

TRIPLE bottom line

Sustainable procurement is becoming the norm in many established procurement teams with organisations choosing to promote their commitment and goals to delivering goods and or services in a principled manner.

What can you do and how can it benefit your organisation and clients?

Start by looking at your primary suppliers and review their ability to deliver services more sustainably and their longer-term plans. Question how you can help and support them meet these goals. Ask your key suppliers to look at their primary suppliers and feedback on their own procurement processes. Initially you may want to focus on 3 main factors e.g. Environmental impact, Modern Slavery and Single Use Plastic.

Including your commitment to sustainable procurement in your businesses values and actively publicising this will not only help to promote and boost your brand but also connect you with many other organisations on a similar journey that could be partners or even clients!

Many more customers are now considering if products are ethically sourced and the impact your business is having before they even approach your organisation. Sometimes this is driven by their clients, stakeholders or in the not for profit sector, their supporters. All of this comes back to confidence in your business, brand, goods and services.

Procurement is often linked, unfairly, to ‘cheap’ and ‘low cost’ sourcing. All our evidence shows that the tide is turning, and many more organisations are willing to pay a small premium to ensure they are working with profitable purposeful companies and those that promote their ambitions and goals.

Aligning to the UN Sustainable development goals is another way to both promote and meet other likeminded business. Here at Novo-K we align with Goal 5- Gender Equality, Goal 9- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Goal 13 Climate Action.

If sustainable procurement is challenging but you still want to share your desire to have a wider social impact, you can also consider donating through a third party. We use Work for Good to donate to MicroLoan Foundation and Plastic Oceans UK.

Organisations are always searching for ways to save money. Sustainable procurement does this by reduced energy cost, reduced consumption and reduced over buying. Analysis your purchasing behaviour to find potential areas to reduce orders and investigate contracts. By looking into your supplier contracts, opportunities to renegotiate could appear resulting in cost savings.

With environmental impact being a trending topic, sustainable procurement is going to become a higher priority. Introducing sustainability into your procurement process can deliver you a lot of value, help you demonstrate how you are supporting the environment and reinforce corporate reputation.

Kavita Cooper Managing Director Novo-K www.novo-k.com