Procurement Think Tanks – the Beyond Group takes a new approach to procurement problem solving

Sammy Rashed (pictured) 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. Rashed also produced an excellent e-book which we featured here, which is absolutely worth reading for any procurement professional. Breault also wrote some thought-provoking pieces for Procurement Leaders last year (like this one) which are also worth checking out.

They are carrying out some relatively conventional advisory type work, but I was particularly interested to learn more about a series of “Think Tank” events that they’re running and developing in various industries – something that sounded suspiciously like a new idea, which always gets me interested. It was good therefore to catch up with them recently for an update.

Thanks for taking the time to speak this morning. Perhaps you can start with a description of how the Think Tank programme works in general terms?

We get a group of senior procurement leaders from a particular industry together for three separate days spread over several months. On the first day, we identify a key issue or set of issues facing the group. On day two we analyse the issues, and on day three we come up with solutions. We talk about “Assess, Explore, Solve” for the three days. But there is research and development work taking place, led by us, between the sessions to inform the actual group days. We also involve a small number of provider-side experts who contribute and add value, but also contribute to the programme financially.

How did you come up with this as an idea and decide it is something you want to do? I guess you both had lots of potential offers and ideas for what you might do post- Novartis?

This follows on from the research Sammy initiated in Novartis around procurement and corporate value, and the content in his e-book . That work made us believe there were big opportunities to help companies, by getting them to come together to work on some of the key issues. But the traditional 'conference' model, or pure consulting projects, don’t generally allow the industry-specific learning that we felt was important. The combination of research and practical work with procurement practitioners excited us too.

So the Think Tank isn’t a conference or consulting – what is it?

We're looking to integrate research, consulting, and conference approaches – we talk about “bringing content to a closed community” – and that community will develop and grow over time, so it has aspects of a best practice or benchmarking “club” too.

Do your members have to sign up for a long period?

No, it’s open to members on an annual basis, which is the three sessions plus the work in between, but we hope and expect organisations will stay around for multiple years.

And what is your role in the process?

We facilitate the three days but there is more to it than that. We run the research between the meetings, working with our academic partners where appropriate. We’ve got several universities involved in the programme, including the Technische Universität Dortmund and the Fraunhofer Institute, for instance. We aim to bring thought leadership and direct input to the process. Another way of looking at it is we say that we bring frustration to the group on day 1, on day 2 we analyse the issues, and on day 3 we develop something new and useful together with the group.

(Part 2 tomorrow...)

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