Discuss, debate and exchange ideas on latest trends and opportunities in the Business Process Management (BPM) landscape. Deliberate on adding “business value” to clients, vendors, employees and various other stakeholders to enhance customer satisfaction and sustain long term partnerships.

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June 26, 2013

Is Purchasing getting enough importance across organizations ? A practitioner's critical view point

Who doesn't know that the Purchasing function has indeed grown in its' importance during last 2 to 3 decades in particular. However, has this generated "enough" importance for Purchasing functions or not?

You might question the need for such a blog post at all. Who doesn't know that the Purchasing function has indeed grown in its importance particularly during the last 2 to 3 decades. Automotive, aerospace, retail and CPG companies have been at the forefront in building & promoting this importance over several years. They invested heavily into supply chain maturity, capability and enhancement and brought in several best practices like TQM, supply risk management, e-procurement etc. Other sectors and industry verticals followed too to imbibe these.

However, has this generated "enough" importance for Purchasing functions or not? This word is key and to measure it accurately, we first need to define ways in which this should be defined as metrics.

I would propose the three simple measures listed below. The measurement range or targets can be decided by each firm themselves. 

  1. # of times purchasing topics made it to the list of the boardroom agenda out of the total boardroom meetings conducted
  2. % of time spent on purchasing topics relative to end customer needs & services topics in all the boardroom meetings conducted
  3. # of times a CPO/purchasing agent presented out of total board room presentations

Being part of several such groups either in my consulting roles or as a purchasing practitioner myself, I have seen Purchasing getting a disproportionately low importance relative to internal sales or customer service functions in particular by firms. My philosophy is simple. If firms can allocate resources to pay topmost importance to their clients/customers , why should they not pay at least equal importance to their own Purchasing functions. Why? Simply because the team in their Purchasing department is also treated as a "client/customer" by firms' suppliers. So firms must appreciate that Purchasing team is no less than clients/customers and provide importance, respect, focus, attention & investment. Till this is a board room mandate, purchasing will continue to add value but still not get enough importance.

What do you think? Want to extend the discussion or provide comments? Please go ahead and blog.

June 21, 2013

Social Media in Corporate Travel Management - Travel Manager's perspective

Penetration of social media into various aspects of life is nothing new. And the area of business travel management obviously cannot ignore this trend and social media need to be approached strategically by travel managers and travel procurement professionals.

Penetration of social media into various aspects of life is not the new thing around us. New social platforms are being introduced on a daily basis and the numbers of users are constantly increasing. The area of corporate travel management obviously cannot ignore this trend and social media need to be approached strategically by travel managers and travel procurement professionals in order to utilize this opportunity for the improvement of their travel programs. 

Couple of years ago travel managers were pretty reluctant to use social media as part of their travel programs. The key reason behind seems to be the fear of enabling the use of social portals in the work as it is hardly possible to prevent the employees from checking their private profiles. Moreover the privacy and confidentiality concerns limit the wider adoption of social media in the industry. Because of those aspects it has not been the love at the first sight but rather a slowly developed relationship. 

Firstly the social media were used as an information inflow. Travel managers started to follow industry-specific blogs; they were joining various industry groups on LinkedIn and started to follow industry-relevant parties on Twitter. Facebook has clearly been on the side as it was understood as a platform for private matters but it is an important marketing tool for travel suppliers especially hotels. As the next step travel managers started to use social media more actively for the communication towards their travelers. Travel-related blogs on company intranets, internal social portals such as Yammer were the first sights of this trend. The original purpose was to communicate to the travelers more effectively but pretty quickly such solutions proved to be an excellent tool for the collection of feedback from the travelers. As the latest step travelers were encouraged to communicate with each other in the way of providing tips on the destinations visited. With monitoring such conversations travel managers were able to collect feedback about their key suppliers - mainly hotels and airlines.

Once travel managers became more comfortable with the internal tools they started to explore external social portals. LinkedIn proved to be very good tool for its ability to create closed groups preventing unauthorized access. However, as mentioned earlier, the higher utilization of external portals is limited with the privacy and confidentiality concerns. However travelers will probably use their private LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts to broadcast a big part of their travel keeping their relatives, friends, colleagues and followers informed about their trips while on the road. Simultaneously IT companies started to develop travel-specialized social portals and itinerary management tools with social networking elements. TripIt is probably the best of the kind and I have to count myself among frequent users of this tool. It enables travelers to see if any friends are around in the same destination or on the same flight. But there are some tools going even further. As an example, one tool currently in the pilot phase with one minor airline will allow travelers to set their mood for the particular flight and the system will match it with other fellow travelers to ensure maximum seating compatibility. I am wondering what is going to come next.

But what about the travelers? There are significant differences between the generation Y and older travelers. Obviously, the younger the traveler is, the higher the adoption rate. But in case of older age groups the incremental increases of adoption is huge. The communication of important announcements via long e-mails or newsletters is the obsolete way of doing it and travelers prefer to get sound bite text messages or alerts delivered directly to the screens of their mobile devices.  And this is going to be the topic of my next blog post. 

June 6, 2013

CSR and Leadership Training

The courage to set yourself against something that cannot be easily won and giving your best shot at it comes from few other places like in CSR.

I have been involved in the CSR activities of our company for the last 5 years. And I have been associated with training for the last 20 years. What I found in my experience was CSR is a perfect nursery for leadership. Here are the five reasons why I think so.

  1. No comfort zone: First of all, you should be able to take a step beyond yourself if you have to think of the society and of course, getting associated with CSR. You have to go beyond your standard excuses of time, comfort and leisure. Well, this is the first step to leadership as well.
  2. Ownership without authority: Each CSR activity involves coordination, networking, reaching out to different entities, go beyond your comfort zone, talking to stakeholders, taking risks and ownership without any defined authority. Not many will last long in this game. Many of our successful volunteers are excellent project managers and program managers today. They can work with different kinds of people, departments, organizations and nations without getting too flustered.
  3. Action vs analysis: Often when you are involved in a CSR activity, you can get overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in fixing the world. I remember the many sleepless nights I had when I came face to face with real disease, poverty and exploitation. It took me a while to go beyond my helplessness and bring myself to do something that works. Something that makes a difference. Something that goes beyond brilliant insights about what is wrong with the world. When I see my leaders in the company, I see that they are no different.
  4. Mentors come free: The one big advantage with any volunteering activity is the variety of people who come together. You can learn abundantly from each other and share your leadership skills generously as well. I know of several senior leaders in my company who with their fellow volunteers share their experience generously. They reprimand, guide, lead and make mistakes along with you. They can stop for a tea along the way to a rural school, tell you stories, give you rare insights and even share a joke. You can't demand so much time/coaching even from any company run leadership programs.
  5. Failure, what failure?: Often success is not guaranteed. You would still not have eliminated poverty or illiteracy after a CSR program. The courage to set yourself against something that cannot be easily won and giving your best shot at it comes from few other places like in CSR. Slowly, you recognize that remarkable difference between satisfaction and success. You discover that empowering others is all that one can do. It leaves you fulfilled. And great leaders do this all the time.

Well, if you are on the fence, get off. Along the way, you may actually end up having a great career.

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