Transcript: Voice of Supply Chain – May 2022

Voice of Supply Chain – May 2022

Featuring: Dr. Elouise Epstein

Welcome to Voice of Supply Chain, brought to you by ISM New Jersey and SourceDay.

The purpose of our show is to tell stories of people in procurement and supply chain doing extraordinary things. I am your host, Sarah Scudder. I oversee marketing for SourceDay. We automate purchase order changes and enable supplier collaboration for manufacturers, distributors, consumer packaged goods brands, and retailers. If you ever want to talk more about Women in ERP or what’s happening in the manufacturing world, feel free to shoot me a note on LinkedIn. I also have started two hashtags to get a community going, which is #womeninERP and #manufacturingmaven.

Today, our guest is Dr. Elouise. Our show is meant to be interactive, so do not feel shy at all about posting comments or questions or thoughts in the chat throughout our conversation.

So, to get us kicked off, we’d love to have you share with us where in the world you are joining us from. It’s pretty awesome to see. We get a global audience and like to see where people are joining us from, so again, drop that in the chat.

So, we are going to Dr. Elouise. We’re gonna go back in time a few years and start with college. So, which you’ve been in school for many, many years. If we look at all the different things you’ve done, even after you graduated. So, what did you originally choose to major in and why? Short answers. I majored in drama, or technical theater, specifically, I was a stage manager, and the why was simply because I enjoyed it and theater people. I love theater people, and I was having so much fun doing putting on shows. That it became my me. I ended up graduating with a theater degree.

Do you sing or dance? Neither, although I did take. I have taken quite a number of years of dance, so I like if push comes to shove, I can do ballet and tap dancing, so I am by no means a dancer, but I used to have tap dance shoes as well.

So, what did you think you wanted to do after graduation? I wanted the tour. I wanted to tour with. I went to tour around the around the United States, probably less so around the world because I was really young when I graduated. I was only 21. So, but I also had been in Southern California my whole life, so I wanted to get out and see the rest of the country and and so I actually took a job. It was for a computerized moving light company back in back when I graduated, like computer-controlled lights for concerts was a new, brand new thing. And so, I took a job in San Jose, which brought me up to the Bay Area, and I worked in a manufacturing warehouse, and we would basically prep. There was a different group that did the manufacturing, and we would test the equipment and pack it up and send it on the road to for concerts, for like Bruce Springsteen or Madonna. But it turned out that was a really rough way to make a living. So, I eventually, after a couple of months, I got an offer with Oakland Ballet and went there, and I got into. I became their production manager and continued on that path until I made the leap over to technology.

So, you have gone back to school a few times, and one of the things that stands out to me is that you got not just one, but two MBAs. So, so why did you do that, and was it worth it? Well, the torch of myself. Alright, so I actually got an MS in education, and then I went and got an MA in history. And I was doing them actually. This is going to be a theme that comes up because it was fun. I really enjoyed studying on history, and interestingly studying education. I studied online systems, and this was it was two decades ago. So, but actually, interestingly, a lot of the technology is still the same, and a lot of the problems that I highlighted in my thesis are still a problem.

So then, you went back for more schooling and you decided to get a PhD. Other than it being fun. Why? I wanted to get really deep and really become an expert in history. I had, after the masters, I just decided that I wanted to go all in on studying this, and I did it while I was working full-time. So, it was because I like. I like to push myself in an extreme manner. But I also. I had eyes at the time of being a university professor. This was for those that kind of tracked the procuratech space. This is in between 2008 and 2012, and so two things were happening. Data science and big data were becoming a thing, and I was sort of pursuing that on one hand, and then I was also pursuing the PhD on the other, and sort of either, either I figured they’d either come together or I would do one or the other, and it would all be good. So, in some ways, I was hedging my bets.

So, that, yeah. So, any more schooling in your future? Well, I was to get a second PhD, but a very kind friend of mine who works at a different consulting firm now. She she, I think when I told her that I honestly believe she was going to slap me, and and and tell me no. So, I think her reaction kind of got me to like back walk that back and say, you know, maybe I should look at other things and and sort of reset. And then, that was about the time that my grand unified theory of procurement platforms started to come to be. And I’ve sort of immersed myself in that. But I, but I will say I do still teach a graduate class for Norwich University, and it’s called race, class, and gender in war. And I also direct capstones for them. They just, you know, periodically, I teach one or two classes a year, and I direct one or two capstone projects a year.

So, we have drama, we have ballet. We have big data, we have history. How did you get into procurement?

So, I, by accident, like many of those in my generation. I’m a fair bit older than most, but of my generation, a lot of us just ended up in procurement. And in the late 90s, early 2000s, or the beginning of 2000, I was working for San Francisco Opera. And I was managing their transition into the digital world. They were one of the first arts organizations to do online ticketing, online subscription renewals. And I was doing that, but I was also doing it in San Francisco, which for the dot-com was like the epicenter. It was really focused in San Francisco and more broadly, Silicon Valley, but there’s a huge boom right here. And so I decided I wanted to be part of it, and I just somebody, a dear friend of mine left the opera and went to this company called Abbreviate, and I went with her. And I took a job, and I grew into that job. And then the company changed, and if you stay at a job long enough, the company around you will change. And I have been doing procu-tech for 22 years now, some way, shape, or form, procure procurement technology or supply chain technology for 22 years.

So, you were at the company Abbreviate. Walk me through your career journey from that to now becoming a partner at Kearney. And I find it interesting, you’ve been at one place for a very long time, which people in my generation, in particular, I mean, two to three years, and you’re bouncing around. So, I think that really stands out for you.

Yeah, well, I mean, they keep paying me, so I keep showing up. And so that’s my rule of thumb. But I, so I started in technical ops for Abbreviate. And that was in the days, when there was a lot of hype around the technology, and it would blow up all the time. And those of us that I still work with a few colleagues from the Abbreviate days, and like, it would, it would not be uncommon to be running big reverse auctions for big clients, big, big-name blue-chip clients, and we’d have auctions like crash in the middle because it just taxed the servers. The servers weren’t they didn’t scale like they do now. It was not cloud infrastructure. Anytime we had to add more servers, we had to actually literally buy another server and go put it into the system. And so, I did that over the course of, you know, five, six, seven years, and there were a lot of evolutions. The data center space consolidated, and then the emergence of the cloud. And so, there was a lot of, like, being on the ground for a sourcing or a procurement tech company was really, really interesting and fascinating. And I never want to go back to that.

And then, so coming out of that, then as I mentioned around between 2008-2012, what happened in the market is the big fish, IBM, came along and bought Emptoris. SAP bought Ariba, and Coupa was still sort of expanding and hadn’t quite moved into the bigger vision that they’re, you know, that they’re in now. And so I thought, well, hey, procure tech’s done, we got this locked up. And that, you know, we got this locked up. And so I’m gonna go do data science and pursue my PhD and kind of see where this all takes takes me. And and then you know, coming out of that, I I was trying to find a platform, and honestly, I was kind of on my way out the door of consulting and Kearney. And either by choice or not by choice, I just, my career had plateaued or was in severe decline, it depends who you ask, and probably more of the severe decline, and so then I but then we started to get and a lot of people have heard this, but we started to get a lot of inbound calls from people that have bought source to contract or source to pay systems, and users weren’t adopting it, and they hated it, or they weren’t getting the ROI. And so that sort of led my investigative side to start to pursue this. And once I realized what a well how many villains there were in the story, shall we say, that we needed to, that there was time for a change, and simultaneously the tech in the consumer world was just exploding. You know, you had Amazon and Facebook and some of these, you know, web 2.0 technologies really hitting their footing at the same time. So, there’s this dichotomy between, hey, I can buy anything on Amazon in 60 seconds or less, and I it takes me 60 days to get something in internal, and so so that’s I that’s when I started to, and and build my grand unified theory.

So you often describe yourself as a digital futurist. What is that? It’s somebody that works future back and is not constrained by the problems of today. So, so a perfect example is is we have supply chain problems. Like, supply chains are in the news every day. They’re topics around dinner conversation, topics with strangers. Like, you can just walk down the street. I’m in San Francisco today. I can walk down Market Street and say, hey, walk up to a random stranger and say, hey, what about those supply chain issues? And I guarantee you, we’ll get a response. And I don’t care if it’s the ship stuck in the Suez Canal, the ships off the coast of China, or the impending labor negotiations here. There where there’s, there’s going to be supply chain issues for the foreseeable future. I don’t think you need that’s not a great, you know, there’s no we don’t need to predict that. We know that. But it’s also because the designs of today’s supply chain we did them in the 90s in the, you know, first decade of the 2000s, and we were, we were building for maximum efficiency, maximum cost savings, and as a result, we did not build in resiliency, obviously, and we did not build in socially conscious or corporate responsibility, and so when those have become objectives in the world that we live in today, they just snap our or they just snap our supply chains, and so as a futurist, I don’t, I don’t look at solving today’s problem. I don’t look at solving today’s problem. I don’t I don’t look at the, the, the, the crisis, you know, the ships off of Shanghai. That’s like that there’s a lot of people that do that. I want to look at building the next-generation supply chain. I want to look at, and to do that, digital is going to be the constant, the underpinning piece of all of this, because it’s the only way that we can scale and build the resiliency and corporate responsibility or sustainability into the way we work.

If you were running a supply chain right now for a company, what would you prioritize? Without a doubt, and I know it sounds cliche, so I’ll follow this up, but I would absolutely prioritize talent, because the talent we have is not the talent we need or the skills we need are dramatically different, and so that’s one. Two is data, and I everybody, every consultant says data, everybody talks about data, data, data, but I think this gets back to the skills, because if we don’t have, we don’t, if you don’t love data, then you’re actually, you probably don’t really understand data. And I know that sounds pejorative, and I don’t quite mean it that way, but I really think that those that just can’t get enough data and just love data, that’s the type of skills we need for end-to-end supply chains, and we desperately don’t have. And then the other piece is innovation, and I would drive an innovation, I would spin up an innovation arm that is disconnected from business as usual operations because the BAU operations are going to there’s always going to be, there’s going to be a crisis today, there’s tomorrow, five years from now, there’s going to be crises, so you have to separate your innovation and really prioritize it because that’s how you’re going to get some of these game-changing technologies in.

What are your observations about procurement in 2022? I think everybody has turned the corner. I think that understanding digital, everybody, I should say everybody appreciates the need for digital, the need for data, the need for analytics, and now the core asking the question of okay, so what do we do? How do we find the right people? How do we build the skills? Because the people and the skills we have to go about it in dramatically different ways, and from I like to talk about how you don’t learn digital from taking an online class, you learn digital by doing, and being digital is something you do, something you exhibit. It’s not having fear; it’s having a sandbox to play in, certainly secure and segmented sandboxes, but but certainly having the tools to innovate, and that’s what I think separates the digitally native companies like Netflix and Amazon and Google versus traditional companies that are trying to wrap their arms around this new world, and so this is access to tools and data is what’s genuinely missing.

What do you think are a couple of not so obvious trends happening this year other than what you’ve mentioned about companies realizing the importance of digital? Oh well, I think the one trend and it’s kind of flying under the radar. Well, the one trend that’s obvious is the fire hose of cash that’s being sprayed to any and every procure tech startup. So what I think is we’re going, and this is probably the sort of third cycle, maybe, of big cash or ever-growing investment in procurement tech or procure tech and supply chain tech. And I think what’s flying under the radar is that these are not all viable businesses, and some of them are going to have to consolidate or move on. It doesn’t mean they’re not good tech, doesn’t mean they’re not good ideas either. They’re either ahead of the market or they haven’t grabbed enough customer base or captured the imagination. So I think that’s one piece that’s flying under the radar. I think the level of automation, and I say this with some caution, but I think we are now starting to see the sophistication in the tools. Now, sophistication in tools doesn’t mean it’s readily applicable to the enterprise; it just means we’re seeing much, much more sophistication in the tools. And maybe that’s a little bit of future promise, and that’s okay. So I’m not saying it’s all here today, but I think the sophistication and complexity of the tools, really, I think that’s flying under the radar. And I think that 2022 is a good; or, it is a good foreshadowing of a really interesting 2023 and 2024.

So, speaking of the sophistication of tools, what are your thoughts on AI and how this is impacting procurement tech? Because oftentimes, I will hear people use the word, and when you really dig in, there’s no AI at all. It’s actually people in the back end, and what’s being sold is AI, but it’s not really AI. Yeah, so you’ll notice on my infamous spider chart, I don’t include any organization that has a professional services arm. For that very reason, because I just you can never get a clear answer as to what is tech and what is people. So that’s the first thing, and I think there’s also another; it’s not just people in the background. There’s also just hard-coded logic that masquerades as AI. And I just I just don’t buy that. And RPA, in general, is very much; it’s not a bad thing to do, but it’s not AI, and it’s limited automation. In fact, RPA is just automating old bad processes or it’s circumventing poorly architected systems. And so, I don’t even look at RPA, really. I don’t even think I have an RPA vendor on my spider chart for that reason. So again, when we really want to talk about machine learning or AI, I would say we are getting more sophisticated machine learning models, but I don’t think we’re getting quite at that level of true AI like Hollywood would convey. And by the way, I spend a lot of time studying machine learning models, and I study true deep learning in AI, and I can tell you the difference between a convolutional neural network and a recurrent neural network, and so, like so these, these, like, this matters.

If we’re gonna really talk about AI, and I also think that we as procurement should not care about the difference between, you know, this algorithm or that algorithm. It should just be baked into the tool. And that’s really what I’m looking for. So when startups come in and pitch AI, just sort of tune them out and just wait for the part of the presentation that tells me, well, what are they actually solving? And then we can talk about how it’s actually being solved.

You mentioned your spider chart. What is that?

So, my main argument in my current book is that procurement needs to move to a platform. Back in the early 2000s, we had all these best-of-breed solutions, and everybody was excited. But then we figured out pretty quickly that none of them integrated with one another.

And then we just became easy for the bigger platforms to come in and sort of say, ‘Well, we’ll create one integrated end-to-end system, a closed-loop suite system.’ And so, that kind of pervaded. You know, that was pervasive for a number of years. And then and then and then we get to so, we kind of went best of breed, now we went full suite. And so what I’m saying is platform. We’re in a platform era right now, and whether it’s procurement or whether it’s other functions, we’re or even or even I lost my train of thought. You so?

Whether it’s cars, cars are built on different platforms. Whether it’s the engine, which is the drivetrain, or the entertainment system, which is a different kind of platform. True AI that you might have in a car is a different platform. So, everything, we’re living in a platform world. And so my argument is we’re not best of breed; we’re not closed-loop suites anymore. We are in platforms, and it’s modeled very much after Salesforce, iOS, and Android. So,

how would somebody get access to your spider chart?

Just follow me on LinkedIn. It gets a lot of views every time I post it. I try to post it once a quarter now, because so much is happening, and I’m gonna have big updates coming up in the next few weeks, if not months, because there’s just so much excitement and innovation happening. So, that, and by the way,

my spider map really shows the procure tech landscape.

What I do that’s probably different than others is I actually deconstructed the procurement value chain into all the different business capabilities you need.

So, I encourage people to not look at the logos as much as the labels because the labels that matter, because those are the unique capabilities that you can get from that vendor. And some vendors do more than one, but I’m showing the expanse of innovation. And so, if you do look at it, read the labels. So, I think that’s really helpful. All my clients tell me that.

So we’ve been getting a few questions coming in about your book. So, I’m going to pivot and talk a little bit about that.

Um, Anna wants to know what is the name of your book.

So it’s “Trade Wars, Pandemics, and Chaos: How Digital Procurement Enables Business Success in the Disordered World.”

It’s available on Amazon, and if you just send me a LinkedIn message, I’m happy to send you a copy as well. I don’t make royalties off the book, so I wrote it to really, it’s really a book on how to do a digital transformation for procurement. And what I hope is that I hope two things with anybody that reads the book. One, that they find that it’s not boring. I don’t think it’s boring. Sarah, you’ve read it, or the part I read.

I read it on a flight, and I don’t read books.

Yeah, and it wasn’t boring, right? Like, right. So that’s my one goal. And two, is it can serve as a blueprint, maybe not the blueprint, but a starting place for anybody and everybody to build a digital strategy for procurement. And I have quite a number of clients that are that do follow it and make adjustments because every industry is different. And that’s what I hope. And so, on those two measures, it’s been very successful.

Okay, so lots of my friends are entrepreneurs and have decided in the last five years to write books. I think it’s a thing.

It is, but it’s really hard. So what was the hardest part for you about writing your book?

It was probably staying focused on it because it’s easy to, especially so. I started my book in March of 2020 just as the pandemic was hitting. Because two things happened:

Our marketing folks, I had a quite a… I had a series of articles that got published into a book I was a co-author on that came out in late 2019.

And so, I was getting a lot of momentum, and there was more to write on the topic because I was writing about the future of procurement back then.

And when COVID hit, all of a sudden our marketing team pivoted 100% to all things COVID. And I’m like, hey, you know, there’s other things here that are important, and we don’t have to have COVID in the title. And I just could not get their attention.

So, I said, “Well, I’ll show you. I’m going to just write a book.” And it was kind of a just a reaction to that, and an impetuous reaction, even. So, I started in March 2020, and I I and that’s when the pandemic was really hitting and everything was getting locked down. So, it was actually pretty easy to carve the time out, but over the summer of 2020, when we sort of figured out how we were going to operate in this remote environment, then it became really then. Then I ended up swinging to like 12 zoom calls a day and being exhausted, so it was hard to write. And so I had to fight through that over August and September, and then I just I just pushed through and finished it on December 25th, 2020. And then I just sent it off to the editor, and then it took another six months to get it actually out the door. So, you wrote it in about a six-month period? You probably closer to nine, but yeah. Yeah, eight or nine months, yeah. That’s not easy. I mean, it takes often years to write a book. Yeah, I was just, I was. I used the impetuous motivation as a just like I’m not gonna be denied. And then the further I got, the more inspired I got to oh, well, I need to say this. I need to say that. I need to say this. And then, and of course, in June of 2020, we had the George Floyd murder and the Black Lives Matter movement really coming to fruition. And and I really wanted to make sure that that made its way in, and that opened up a sort of a challenge and an opportunity for bringing about corporate responsibility in a much more scalable format. So I write about that, and that leads into sustainability and making the social changes through the way we do procurement. Because the one thing I firmly believe is procurement can and does move the needle operationally on corporate responsibility objectives. So, it became that became really highly motivating for me.
And so that gave me another boost. If you got a do-over, what would you change about your book? Well, I’d put a table of contents in at the end, and I’m working on adding that. We’re going to update the and then the other is I would actually do record an audiobook. I keep planning to do it and haven’t done it, but I think the one thing I’ve learned is everybody is moving into the audio realm. So I’m definitely, if I’d, if I’m going to try and get this one on audio, and if I don’t, my next book will absolutely be on audio day one.

So Melissa wants to know, what is the topic of your next book? So it’s going, and I alluded to it earlier. My next book is going to be how to sustain a digital transformation, and really it’s about the culture and skills and talent changes that are necessary. Because everybody, absolutely everybody, is doing a transformation right now, everybody is in the midst, whether it’s in procurement or in the broader enterprise. Everybody’s transforming.

And I think what we’re going to find coming out of, you know, this year, next year, we’re going to find that a lot of those transformations didn’t really net the change that was promised. And so, and we’ve seen this with agile, we’ve seen this with what can be best termed as the “corporatization of agile,” like the way we do agile in corporate corporations is nothing like the way it’s supposed to be done by the book. And so, we so, and I think transformation is following a similar path in that we have to we have. So we have. One of my colleagues is a specialist, like I’m in digital procurement. He’s a specialist in fixing broken agile. And so, I think we’re going to need not just me, but other experts to fix broken digital transformations.

So we got a comment coming in saying that you should consider doing a podcast. That’s very kind. I don’t think I’m organized enough or disciplined enough to do a podcast, but I’ll keep the option open. How about that? Anna, she’s keeping the option open, so there is hope. What advice would you have for other people in supply chain and procurement that are thinking about writing a book? I well, I mean I think it’s great. I think when I look around, especially when I try to categorize my book on Amazon, there’s hardly, I don’t think there’s any category for supply chain, and none for procurement. There might be one now, obviously, but but a year ago, last summer, there was. I I think the best I could do is business. It was business strategy or something.

So, I think we do need more books, but you know, please, if you’re going to write a book, say something, say something, make it interesting, because I do think they’re at least consultants have a habit of writing very, or not being, yeah, boring, not being compelling, not moving the needle enough. That’s why really, one of my two objectives was to say something interesting in a way that’s compelling. So, whatever you write about, just make it compelling. And there’s so many great topics. I mean, anything from you know, within the four walls, manufacturing, contract manufacturing, warehouse logistics, advanced partnership, end-to-end planning. There’s so many great topics, and and I’m not only looking at one small thread, and I’m excited for other people to write more books. So, I guess my advice would be, please do it, but but make it compelling, because what we need, if I were to teach a supply chain class, there’s not enough material. I think there’s not enough books and not enough manuals on how to do this, that I think that’s why we need to see a boom in, I wouldn’t say academic, but certainly books that are much more focused on practitioners.

So I want to pivot the conversation a little bit to consulting. I’ve spent my career in the startup space, and there are a lot of small companies that maybe can’t afford consultants, or they think they can’t. When should a company that’s looking at making a major technology digital shift think about using a consultant versus managing it in-house? Well, I think when you get to a level of sophistication and and the need. So, there’s a couple of areas. If you’re getting into something that’s super sophisticated and your team doesn’t have the deep expertise or, say, the benchmarks, and I think that just requires being honest. Not every team, like Carney, we don’t do everything perfectly. Like that’s you know, that’s not our, you know, we’re really good at operations, you know, and then supply chain. That’s our, you know, that’s that’s what we’re really good at. We may do other things, but if we’re really honest, we’re really, really, really good at that. And I think you can go down the line for every tech company, every consulting company. There’s things they do well, and every organization is going to have spikes. And for something that’s really sophisticated, you want to engage consultants to make sure that you’re bringing that depth of expertise.

“Now, those that read my book know that I’m a little, like, I can be highly skeptical and if not outright pointed or derisive to consultants. So, it’s, you know, you buy or be well, but beware for sure. But I do think in that realm, that’s one realm; another realm is if you need to be challenged. And a lot of my clients I engage with them to challenge them and make sure that they are really thinking about not just designing for today but designing for tomorrow. And that again, you want your strategy to be pressure-tested and or even your rollout plan and your implementation. And that’s where experts can really be a thought partner and a challenge partner. And I think that’s where consultants do really well and being a trusted advisor. I’m very skeptical, though, of consultants that are in the pocket of big tech or of the analyst. So, you do have to again, buy or beware. One of the things that I really love that you do is you hold something I’ll just call it an innovation day or innovation sessions. Where you bring in new technology and new solutions and have people present to your team and to your clients. Talk a little bit about the inspiration behind that and maybe how some supply chain leaders could emulate something like that internally at their companies. Yeah, so this might be a long answer; I’ll try to make it quick or quicker. So, I had a client and I wrote about the book that that’s that asked me to call me and my colleagues to go to London and do a future procurement presentation. This was in 2017 at the end of 2017. And so we went there and we talked about all this automation, self-service, and then the session went well, and but I could tell that the room was because it was all of all of his direct reports and a couple of other people, but the room just was like they were just not as excited as I expected because we were really talking about automation and bringing it to life. And then, and then the questions came, and then I found out why they weren’t all that inspired because the CPO and his head of procurement technology had come out here to the Bay Area like two weeks earlier. And one of our competitors had put together this meet and greet with fintech, so so the CPO is from a major bank, and it was this sort of like we’re gonna put a bunch of fintech startups and procurement startups in a room with some of their clients and like hope for the best; it was like come to Silicon Valley and be cool for a day. And they came, my client came away from there uninspired and really down on the future of the ability of procure tech to really mature. And I was like, what? Again, the impetuous side of me said, if you come to San Francisco again, I will curate a day for you and and I will I will show you the future; I’ll make this happen. And so, with so then, you know, a couple of months go by, and then he emails and says, I’m going to be there in three weeks; you know, I’d love to see your day of startups. And so, I scrambled; I called in favors. I just sort of made it up, and we brought like eight – I think it was seven or eight – and coming after that day, it was it became very clear that this was a thing. And shortly thereafter, we had a project where we, as part of the project, we agreed to do one of these days, and we brought other clients together. And it was, and what made a difference who were different than others is, and especially that other session that he had gone to, is, I personally curated all the startups; I talked to every startup beforehand, and I told them what to do. We changed the format on how to pitch; I kept giving feedback, like don’t use AI; don’t use AI as a term. And of course, everybody came in and said we use AI; AI, AI, but that’s you know, neither here nor there. But also, getting all these executives from New Jersey, from London, from other countries to come to San Francisco and to just get out of their offices; that was that was a winner. And we Autodesk has an innovation center down here in downtown San Francisco, so we went there. Subsequently, we’ve gone to like the Amazon Go store, and it just, getting people relaxed, getting people, clients, to talk to one another and showing them really specific solutions. That because I know that you know this bank has this problem, so I’m going to show them this kind of startup; I’m not going to show them a manufacturing startup. So, and that my ability to do that made all the difference in the world. People struggle with either information overload, so there’s just too much, or in some areas, like in some areas of tech, there’s really information lacking altogether. What resources or tools do you recommend for people in supply chain that want to get more knowledge and insight and more education on the digital space? Yeah, so I’m going to state my bias, because I’m big on stating biases. Because I don’t think, well, I think collectively we have bias problems, but but I’ll tell you why. So, procure tech and Kearney have a partnership. I’m on the advisory board for Procurement Foundry, and and and and I’m a big supporter of Digital Procurement World. So, so those three organizations, I think, do a good job. Now, granted, I’d be the first to admit, I think there is some bias in my statement. But I think they all do something very different and very unique versus traditional ways we’ve done this, and I think ProcureTech, if you imagine, so back to my last question about how I managed all this. I had all these, you know, I used to track all these startups in a spreadsheet, and spreadsheet back when there were like a hundred. And no spreadsheets, yeah, no, exactly, but well, this was five years ago, so, so like but but I mean, now there are thousands of procure tech startups. I can’t, you know, you can’t do that in Excel, so no more Excel. And the dimensions that we evaluate them on are just exponential now, versus five years ago when it was just nascent. So, so that’s why we partnered with ProcureTech to kind of industrialize that. And so what, and part of that industrialization is bringing practitioners, executive CPOs, and its CPOs and their heads of technology that do the evaluation. And I think that brings a level of rigor that even or that scales what I used to do. And so, so I think that following them, they do a newsletter, is good. I think similarly, Digital Procurement World does a great, a similar thing.

But they bring everybody together in an event, and it is truly, I think, a world-class event. And I am speaking at that one in September, but I think when you look at the speakers, it’s top-notch. It’s CPOs from all the advanced or leading CPOs from really big-name companies. And I think that’s a testament to the power of that. So you really have this big executive presence and, at the same time, a lot of innovators there, and I think bringing everybody together is a really big thing.

And then the other one I like is Procurement Foundry, which those that read the book, well, I did an exposé on them. And that brings together peers in a community, and I think peer sharing is a huge, I think it’s undervalued; I think it’s becoming more valued. But I think being able to post out to the community of five thousand, six thousand, seven thousand people of practitioners and get responses back, that’s a big deal. So that’s, I would recommend those three, with the caveat of my bias.

And we have a note question coming in from Robert that Procurement Foundry does not allow consultants within their community. Yes, nor vendors. And vendors are allowed in a segmented area, so they don’t. You, you as the practitioner, choose to go into their room or that Slack channel. But, but they can’t find you. And what I do like about Procurement Foundry is they never sell your data, and because I think that’s a bad business model. And that’s how most or a lot of this, the economics of this work. And I think that’s the one thing Procurement Foundry has done a couple of really great things, and that’s one of them is changing that paradigm.

So, in our last five or ten minutes, I want to switch the conversation again and make it a little bit more personal. I always like to close out with a spitfire round, but one of the things that I think you seem to have a really good grasp on is time management, and doing a lot of different things at once. Would like for you to share tips you have for practitioners or consultants or people in supply chain that are struggling with time management.

Well, those that know me personally know that I’m messy, and I don’t think there’s any way about it, and I’ll lose text message threads. When I say this, man, like, oh, there’s that other thread, never responded to. And so, so I’m not, I’m not an expert by any means, and I get pulled in a lot of different directions, absolutely, because yesterday I was in New Jersey; I flew back last night. I’m in San Francisco, downtown San Francisco, today; I leave tonight to, you know, go somewhere else. So, I’m constantly bouncing around.

But I think there’s a few things that I do. One is, I actually make time. Well, so everything I say has the caveat of I may not be the best person to answer this, but but the one thing I do is I prioritize exercise because I do my best thinking when I’m exercising, and I have four big dogs, and so we hike a lot, and I will always prioritize hiking them, even if I get up early, I will hike them first, and just kind of get my day going. So, I don’t check email first thing; I don’t reply to anything, also because my responses at six or seven a.m do not begin a productive day that can cause more drama, so, and so I carve that time out, and if I do have to take a call, I’ll usually take it while I’m hiking, so so that I don’t miss my time outside.

I think that’s one. Two is limiting the number of calls I do in a day. I do block my calendar, and for the most part, I stick to the blocks. I don’t I do not take calls on Thursdays. I will do webinars like this or sessions like this; I’ll do presentations like this on Thursdays, but I won’t do I won’t do general calls on Thursdays. And those are theoretically my days to write, but yeah, I find ways of procrastinating. And then the other thing I do on Friday, especially because I’m on the West Coast, is I work with a public speaking coach, and we work every Friday afternoon because it’s quiet; I’m not getting interrupted. And I want to continue to advance my public speaking skills. So I prioritize that, and it really I like. I mean, I do look at myself on video after every presentation, so I do see improvement over time, and so I’m proud of that. And it’s something I work at a lot.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? Writing that book was quite an quite an accomplishment. It started out with a, you know, sort of, I’ll show you, but when I, when I have, see, you know, when I, when it’s been produced, and when I have clients. I have clients all the time; they’ll lift they’ll show me on the camera, and every time they show me on the camera or people will take pictures. You know, like then, and post online. A few folks on the call on here today have shown pictures, and I collect the pictures, and so I am proud of that to see how many people send the pictures and or post very complimentary pieces. And the number of clients that I have, one client just asked for 70 copies of the book. I have another that that is, it’s probably almost 100, have gone to their employees, and that’s unique, and that’s not, you know, that’s not the only one. So I am very proud of the fact that I wrote something that people find useful. That’s, that’s all I was hoping for is to write something that wasn’t boring but actually useful. And I have seen that; like I’ll be in sessions, and like the CEO of one CPG company was in the session that we were doing in future procurement, and she was, she was, she was writing furiously all throughout the book and highlighting things. And people will show me you know, things that you know, they highlighted. I mean, all that, it just, it’s like feeling useful. It’s like when you put something out that’s useful to people; it is rewarding.

Quality you admire most in yourself? My bluntness. It’s taken a while, but I appreciate how I have, and I have toned that down. But I think, you know, in an era where everything is, we’re promoting, you know, everything’s great, everything’s great, even if the world’s falling apart, everything’s great. To be able to stop and say, you know what, it’s just not; everything’s great, and that’s okay, because we can, we can fix this, because I am an optimist. But because somebody asked if somebody asked me yesterday what the most the biggest impact of the book has been, and people saying thank you for putting words to this, you know, to because there’s a lot of villains in the book; spoiler alert. But actually putting voice to that and saying calling everybody out, consultants, and myself included, so like nobody got spared, and just putting voice to something that it’s hard to pull out of the day-to-day of constant promotion, and really getting real.

So, what’s your dream? World peace. Maybe less political divisiveness, but but you know, if we can’t achieve those goals, then I would say, seeing the next generation of supply chain professionals really step into the business and become the business. And my argument it continues to be that we as procurement, we as supply chain, we are the business as much as anybody else around the table. And so really owning that and embracing that is that’s a real change; we are not a back-office function. Supply chains now, it’s clear, not only can move corporate objectives like I said on ESG and sort of risk and resiliency, but we can also change the business paradigm. And I think, increasingly, digital is going to be a key component of that. But also our ability to execute, and execution is all supply chain. And so I really hope to see, you know, I’d say but you know, I think my generation is kind of getting towards the the, we’re matriculating out. But your generation and the next generation, really take the mantle and run, and I absolutely have no doubt that that that you all will.

Biggest pet peeve: Buzzwords.

Every time we talked about it, but AI, blockchain, blah blah blah, you know, like, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t with that. It’s like, let’s, let’s talk, let’s talk details and, and I’m, because I focus on one thing, I can go from fifty thousand feet all the way down to the five-foot level, and I will have debates about field length and databases all the way up to positioning procurement over the next five or ten years. And so it really, really irritates me when people use platitudes and use business jargon, and or overly complicated business jargon, or the traditional buzzword thing, I just can’t stand that.

Favorite thing to do in your downtime: Asleep. Read. Certainly read.

Alright, well, I want to thank Dr. Elouise for joining the show today. Our next show will be June 15th at 2 p.m Eastern. MVK, who is the Chief Procurement Officer at Coupa, will be joining us.