Jim Hemmington at eWorld – “More Money For BBC Programmes”

We’re going back to the recent eWorld Procurement and Supply event for more highlights this week, starting with the keynote from BBC procurement supremo, Jim Hemmington, titled Will Technology Kill the Procurement Star?

Hemmington started by reminding us that Buggles were wrong in their 1977 hit Video Killed the Radio Star. Radio 2 has a record 14 million listeners a day, which reminds us that technology brings opportunities as well as threats.  Digital transformation continues at huge pace, new software, apps and the like are emerging on a daily basis.

Robotics is now a reality, with rapidly increasing systemisation – a recent new outsourcing contract for the BBC has seen a substantial headcount saving through use of automation and robotics in the field of accounting and financial analysis.

By 2018, 20% of business activity will be automated and machine-dependent, 6 billion items of technology will be connected in some way, and we are dealing with the “hyper adaptive customer”. Hemmington pointed out that it took two years to sell the first 50,000 colour TVs, but in the same time period from launch Apple sold 80 million iPhones!

So, man / machine interaction will become seamless, with machines taking on increasingly complex customer transactions (e.g. web-chat). In the procurement world, can you imagine (he asked) machines handling this:

  • Suppliers selected and changed
  • Suppliers benchmarked daily
  • Supplier stability monitored automatically
  • Automated inter-company trading, ordering linked to consumption, auto goods receipting
  • Automated governance reviews and correction plans with daily reporting

So faced with all this, how does procurement stay relevant? Hemmington has three key priorities for procurement functions:

  1. Become a trusted business partner – more proactive, closer to business, bring innovation from market
  2. Reducing and avoiding costs – this will still be key
  3. Improve procurement agility, respond quickly to changing business priorities

He also believes we have two secret weapons! The first is our people, with commercial and interpersonal skills, integrated technology expertise, rounded market knowledge, and the ability to look ahead and predict future business challenges.

The second relates to the old saying, “knowledge is power”. Procurement is one of the few parts of the organisation that gets a helicopter view of the whole business, enabling us to understand the organisation’s culture and activities – and relate that to the external market. (This is a powerful point, we would concur.) So he gave the audience four steps to help position procurement:

  1. Create the excitement - his headline for procurement is that his team enables the organisation to have  “more money for programmes”.  That relates procurement to organisation’s central purpose so is a powerful message. Procurement protects the BBC’s reputation, shows licence fee payers their money is being spent properly - and helps to find  new suppliers to deliver an exciting new vision e.g. for the iPlayer
  1. Create the business partner framework – work closely with stakeholders, use relevant data, capture the “benefits of great supply relationships, not just savings”. Focus on the whole lifecycle, indulging exit costs.
  1. Identify and nurture the talent - understand what makes procurement people effective in your organisation. Develop the diversity of competencies, implement clear reward and development programmes.
  1. Keep re-inventing - look for new ways to add value, constantly review procurement’s contribution. Tell stories that evidence procurement's contribution.

So, technology will help effective procurement functions to succeed and thrive – as long as we keep a strategic profile, attract and retain good people, and flex with changing business challenges. All in all, this was a session that was enjoyable, thought-provoking and contained some solid advice too.

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