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- November 03, 2016
- Philip Ideson
November marks the one-year anniversary of “The Art of Procurement,” a twice-weekly podcast featuring in-depth interviews with thought leaders procurement professionals might not have access to without traveling to attend industry conferences. Hosted by long time procurement practitioner Philip Ideson, the show has filled a gap in the procurement learning landscape because it is the first regular podcast on the topic available by subscription in the iTunes store and his website.
On the eve of the show’s first anniversary, we caught up with Phil to discuss his journey so far, his favorite interviews and what he’s learned about the future of the profession.
Coupa: What led you to launch “The Art of Procurement?”
Phil: I had always wanted to do something a little more entrepreneurial. So, last September, I set up my own procurement advisory service. When I was making the decision whether to take the risk of doing that, I would listen to an awful lot of podcasts in the entrepreneurship space and in marketing and sales, trying to learn some of those skills I would need.
I thought that this was a really effective way of learning, but there's nothing like it in procurement. There are a couple of podcasts, but they're relatively infrequent. That gave me the idea to try something in the procurement space, where I consistently publish on the same days of every week.
I thought, if nobody listens, then I'm going to have the opportunity to talk to people that I look up to in the profession. At least I know that I'm going to learn.
Coupa: Why the podcast format?
Phil: I wanted to do something that people would be able to access when they're on the go. I had made a decision from a health perspective that I had to invest a lot of time in getting fit. That meant a lot of long walks, and a lot of running. I'm the kind of person that I need something going on in my head to keep myself entertained. That's how I first came across podcasts.
Coupa: Do you have a few favorites?
Phil: I listen to "Planet Money" all the time, which is an NPR podcast. There's one called "Startup", which started as a podcast about a podcast company starting up. You know that's very meta. There's one with Tim Ferriss, the author of “The Four Hour Work Week,” where he interviews a lot of very different and interesting people. It's just called the "Tim Ferriss Show".
Coupa: What inspires your podcast?
Phil: I started in procurement 16 years ago now. Some of the same things we're talking about now are some of the same things we talked about then. So, we're extremely slow to change as a profession.
But my gut feel tells me that the pace of technological change and what is possible in our general everyday lives means that there are probably things coming down the pike that are going to change the profession.
Right now in a lot of organizations, we're still seeing it as very tactical and transactional. All we do is help facilitate the process.
We really have to be changing our value proposition so that we truly are focusing on aligning with the business, on thinking more about helping companies make money rather than save money, and thinking about protecting and enhancing the value of brands--doing a lot of things that we’ve talked about for a long time.
Coupa: Should procurement take the lead in bringing new technology to the organization?
Phil: I think it's incumbent upon procurement to be the ones that drive change. Because if we don't, then the organization around us will change and we won't have a say in that. The outcome will probably be something we don't like as a profession. Part of my show is to be a little bit provocative, and to get people to think that we do need to change rather than just keep our heads in the sand.
Coupa: Do you feel like we are making progress on these things we’ve been talking about for so long?
Phil: I think so, but I'm not sure if it's widespread progress. Some organizations are doing great things. But, I don't think everybody is.
Coupa: What organizations do you think are doing great things?
Phil: Google (Podcast #14) has been on a multi-year journey to transition from being what they would call an RFP shop to playing a bigger role in the growth of the business.
So, as opposed to looking at how can they reduce every dime that they could from a supplier engagement, they asked themselves, who are the 20 people who are really driving the future of the company?
Let's align ourselves with those 20 people and let's give those 20 people white glove service so we can truly be a part of what it is they're doing and help them bring innovative suppliers to help them be better or faster at the role they play in growing the company.
One of the interesting things they did to support that is, they built an internal CRM system. There are very, very few procurement companies, if any, that I hear of using CRM as a way of looking at their stakeholders as internal clients. At Google, they’re using it to track everything that they do with them, creating a repository so they know their clients intimately based on all their interactions with them. It also ensures that knowledge doesn't walk out the door whenever a person leaves their organization.
Everybody who listens to that show that comes back to me tells me what a great idea it is. Folks that are thinking strategically recognize the value that there is in doing something like that.
Coupa: Interesting. Any others?
Phil: Kate Vitasek (Podcast #91) is advocating this whole notion that you've got to think differently about your more strategic suppliers and your most material supplier relationships because if you buy a transaction, you're going to get provided a transaction, but if you want to buy for outcomes, it's got to change how you approach the relationship.
I think that is going to be key to our value proposition going forward, being able to essentially build those relationships with the suppliers that have the most impact on the USP (unique selling proposition) of a company. You get more value partnering with them than you would ever be able to get if it was just a one-way transaction.
Coupa: What else?
Phil: I've been hearing a lot more people in the industry talking about the fact that maybe there won't even be a procurement function in ten years' time, at least a procurement back office.
By back office, I mean anything from doing the traditional P2P purchase order or requisition to doing tactical negotiations, writing RFPs, doing a lot of things that are foundations to the function, but not necessarily managing supplier and stakeholder relationships.
I believe that there will always be a role for a function to help their organization maximize the value of their third-party relationships. How that's delivered is probably going to look very different. Automation will take out a lot of the P2P work--purchase orders, purchase requisitions, even some of the transactional buying. You'll have technology that allows individuals to self-source or be guided on their buying journey for almost every product or service that a business needs.
Just like you're going on Amazon, for example, and buying things in your personal life, there's going to be a demand and a need for procurement organizers to have tools that allow the business to do that. You have compliance built into it under the surface, but it's going to take a lot of the smaller buyers off your plate.
So, we're really going to be focusing on the most strategic relationships. You'll need people who are skilled at managing all those, at managing information from different sources, and pulling it together to where it looks seamless for a stakeholder. It's going to be about understanding the nuances of supplier ecosystems for what it is you want to buy and then it's going to be about facilitating the relationships and influencing people.