Procurement Think Tanks – part 2 with Sammy Rashed and Giles Breault

Sammy Rashed and Giles Breault were senior colleagues at Novartis until about a year ago. Breault was the CPO there, whilst Rashed held senior positions in core procurement, but also led wider business transformation and productivity programmes.

They’re two of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve met in our world in recent years, so I’ve followed their progress with interest since they announced their new venture, the Beyond Group. Yesterday we started featuring their new Think Tank venture. Here is part 2.

Which industries have you covered so far with the Think Tanks?

We're into year two of the European “Productivity in Pharma” group now – we've just held the second day of this year’s programme with that group. We're running Pharma in the US for the first time later this year and hope to cover the same industry in Asia next year. We've also got programmes in the telecommunications, chemicals and financial services underway or coming up, and we have a few others in mind.

Let’s focus on the Pharma experience then. What did you cover last year with the group?

We looked at SRM (supplier relationship management) last year, taking that into new models around Trading Relationship Management as well. So for instance we looked at how the consumer goods industry managed strategic suppliers and researched best practice in that sector. We looked at obstacles and barriers to SRM, and the role of the procurement function in the process. We considered techniques including lean, 6-sigma and crowd sourcing in our research to come up with new models, potential ideas and solutions.

And what are you doing this time round?

In 2014 we are considering innovation – in fact, the lead question is “How can Procurement strike the spark of innovation from suppliers, nurture it, and help carry it from idea to realization”?

That follows on well from SRM but is important as a topic in its own right. We are looking at “Innovation Sourcing” case studies, how you build the internal capability, the governance and processes necessary for success, and how you interact with the supply base to drive that innovation.

You explained that you bring in third parties, both to add value and to provide some of the necessary funding for the Think Tank. How do you ensure the third party involvement doesn't just become a blatant “sales pitch” from a consultant or software provider?

We and the group members really choose which third parties to invite based on their expertise and the direction the work is taking. We also have links with Universities and there is also input from that quarter. There is generally only one provider at each session, and we don’t even choose them until we see where the work is going and therefore what would be useful for someone to bring to the Think Tank. They are there to provide ideas, contribute their knowledge and intelligence, not sell. They become part of the team.


And how long do you think the Think Tanks can continue?

At a minimum, we think we could develop one theme a year based on each chapter of the e-Book. So that would keep us going for a few years! But it is really down to the members, as long as they have major issues they want to address, then we believe the process should add value for them.


So there you have it. Something that is a hybrid best practice club, research project, networking event and consulting project. Definitely different, and a model that relies heavily on the skills and capability of the people driving it, so not that easy to replicate, which is good news for the Beyond Group. And in their case, I have a lot of confidence in Rashed and Breault. They both combine real life experience and success with a strong intellectual and conceptual base, as evidenced by Rashed's e-book – it is a very good read.

It helps that their ideas about the nature and future of procurement align pretty strongly with mine, so maybe there is an element of bias here, but the Think Tank concept strikes me as a worthwhile addition to the procurement scene. And we hope to speak to a couple of this year’s participants later this year and get their views on the process.


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