What are your hobbies?
I used to do a lot of sports, gymnastics, volleyball, jazz dancing, swimming and playing the piano. I find it hard to set aside time to do any of the these at the moment. One of my hobbies currently is working… sad, but true.
Describe your job in five words:
Simplifying the world of procurement
What are the best parts of your job?
I love working with people and solving problems. I get satisfaction from unlocking complex situations.
Who is iDDea and what do you do?
iDDea is a Strategic Sourcing Powerhouse. Our goal is to enhance the effectiveness of people and knowledge.
iDDea does this by applying best practices in the 6 stages of the strategic sourcing cycle. These are: Spend Analysis, Category Management, Tendering and Negotiation, Contract Management, Supplier Relationships Management and Value KPI Reporting.
We design strategic sourcing/category programs and support customers’ procurement teams through providing outsourced procurement expertise. We have an outcome-based focus to deliver Value for Money best practice in line with category and industry insights.
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
My main priority as CEO is to look after our team. If I do not do that well, I do not have a business, I would not have satisfied customers. The main focus of my team is to look after our customers. We are a customer-centric company. By listening to and learning from our customers, we are able to understand their challenges. We use our expertise to address the problems and figure out the best solutions.
What are your biggest challenges as a CEO?
The biggest challenge for me was becoming an expert in all areas of business. I’ve worked in Purchasing and Procurement for 20 years. I am passionate about it. However, being good at one thing does not make you a good CEO. In fact, to be a CEO, you must be good at many roles, such as business development, sales, finance, IT and HR. It didn’t come naturally to me and it still does feel alien sometimes but fortunately, I have support from some great mentors and I hired very good people for the roles I was not good in.
The second biggest challenge is keeping up with the latest trends. The ubiquity of data, digital and technology solutions and the changing customer demands has shortened life cycles and time to market targets. The current business environment is very fast paced. It feels we are constantly on choppy waters without a haven in sight. By staying true to ourselves, and staying close to our customers, we use these changes to our advantage.
I am excited about the digital disruption and the marriage between human and machine. I already want to leap 20 years forward and have a preview of what the world will look like then. I wonder, what activities will be done by robots….or by our children? Sometimes it is hard to keep up to date, so staying abreast of the latest developments it inspires me.
How do you keep your team/staff motivated?
We’re a small team so there are many advantages. We have a family feel, people express their opinions openly and honestly. Everyone is treated with respect. There is no hierarchy and because of that, everyone has autonomy in their roles.
I don’t think the 9-5 structure suits everyone, so we take a flexible approach. If someone wants to arrive at the office earlier or later or work from home it’s no problem.
When a customer sends a complimentary email or praises one of the team we share it. When my team works very hard on a project, we try to make sure there are some extra days off so they can spend time with their families or extend their holiday.
What are the latest trends in Procurement?
In Procurement, we gather lagging data indicators from various industries, from multiple categories. We forecast best buying decisions by evaluating these trends and insights in the context of our customers.
Digital disruption and new SMART tools are high on the agenda for everyone. Here also, procurement as a function is lagging behind other functions, such as Finance, Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain. Soon procurement will be able to use insight from leading data indicators and by applying AI business tools, augmented by human expertise and intelligence, the strategic value contribution of procurement will be measurable beyond Savings only.
Other trends pivot around new topics such as innovation, collaboration, ICT, sustainability and circular economy. Multinationals, the EU and OECD public procurement especially are debating and promoting these new topics as key differentiation for future procurement decisions. As buyers, we have a great opportunity to “buy right” for the 3P’s: People, Planet, Profit. The selection criteria for the best decision should be the best blend of these.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in Procurement?
The Procurement Community itself needs to unite, work together and become more aware of the value we create for our business and the potential that it holds. The average spend procurement manages, is 65% of the turnover. We can buy innovative solutions when our market and product knowledge matches our stakeholders’ needs. We improve buying green and making sustainable decisions. We are sitting at the front-end of a lot of operational and strategic decisions. We need to market our value by delivering best decisions while minimising risk. That is our role. We need to sell our success stories based on the data that is available to us. But we need to come out of our shell and practice what we preach. The impact and results will benefit any business and waiting for someone else to do this for you isn’t in the best interest of the individual, the business or the brand of procurement.
As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?
Procurement and supply chain are experiencing huge issues with skills gaps and resources into our domain. 10% of vacancies unfilled. To be honest, recruitment agencies are robbing Peter to pay Paul with the good buyers that are in the market. There are not enough buyers and there is very little done about marketing procurement as a profession or career. With lecturing in UCC on Procurement and developing a Masters for Procurement for Graduates for 2018, we hope to address this skills and resource gap in time. Key to this is to educate businesses that Procurement skillsets reach further than only the professional acumen. It is also emotional intelligence and other business acumen skills that buyers need to be proficient in so in building job specifications, I would strongly recommend hiring managers to look at both the soft and hard skills required.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Success lies in the value we create, problems we solve, relationships we develop and partnerships we deepen. At heart, my team, with their relentless pursuit of delivering their best for the customer, want to make a difference. 90% of our business comes from referrals. People recommend us to peers and colleagues who have procurement or sourcing pain points to address. We follow our own methodology of iDDea: Intent, Diagnose, Design, Execute and Augment. We measure our progress and success from the eyes of the customer. We are successful because we are people working with and for the benefits of other people. We understand, unlock and unravel their challenges and address them together. We go on the journey with our clients and together we deliver change for the better.
What’s the best advice you’ve heard, or would give, in business?
Ask for help. Reach out to your network, learn from others. Simultaneously, payback and pay forward, coach, mentor, share, be accessible, be available and just be yourself. I still do not do it enough, I think I am the only one having an issue or a challenge, however, I cannot be further from the truth! Other people have dealt with the same challenges before and successfully so we can learn a lot from listening to them but we need to reach out.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
Our business model has various strands. I lecture in Procurement Management in UCC. We coach buyers, managers and CPO’s one to one and in workshops. We manage tenders and recommend buying decisions. We provide digital platform solutions for companies who want to do all the stages of strategic sourcing themselves. Our customer base is quite diverse, from micro companies to multinationals, from private to public sector. We work with all main industries.
As you can see, our knowledge and expertise is niche however our reach and impact is very broad, so it is hard to answer that question. One interesting fact and for us, a highlight is our partnership with a sales company, the other side of the same coin. Altify is a digital sales transformation business and iDDea, a procurement consultancy team, is their research partner of choice?? While many think this an unusual partnership, it not only works, it augments the understanding for both sides and it shows me that we are on the right path. To work together, to unearth the common challenges we have and trying to find solutions, is very gratifying. To get recognition and to collaborate with a sales team, that shares similar values, is win-win for both. This is true co-creation. Sitting alongside them, as a subject-matter expert, to understand pain points and challenges has re-enforced our belief that “People buy from People, People sell to People”. When everything else is equal, trust is the only differentiator between better and best.
What’s next for your iDDea?
iDDea has big plans and in collaboration with UCC, DCU, Arvo, and 10 other European procurement competency centres, we are putting the final touches on bringing to market a Centre of Excellence in Procurement – The Procurement Transformation Institute (PTI). PTI’s purpose is to develop procurement professionals to a best practice framework promote the Value of Procurement, create an inclusive community and improve procurement impact on business results. PTI will develop a vibrant procurement community to develop and promote peer-to-peer learning and innovation. With the asking of strategic partners in the public and private sector, all I can say is WATCH THIS SPACE. For those interested in coming on board and be part of Ireland developing as the leader in Europe for procurement excellence, get in touch to join our advisory group…
We recently partnered with a leading digital company to design the Next Generation Trusted procurement platform applications: with the latest digital advancements in mind such as AI, RPA, NLP, Cloud, we will facilitate optimum buying decisions on Blockchain technology. This is still in development and we aim that Q3 2018 we will share openly the proof of concept and first products can go to market end 2018.
What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2017?
We work very closely together with other partners in the procurement and business space. We truly believe that success needs to be is all about Collaboration and Innovation and already we can see steady growth coming through for 2018 and beyond. The market is actively looking to outsource key business services where there exists either time or expertise gaps in-house. Procurement is one of those services. The resource gaps that companies experience drives this demand and the ROI ensures long-term viability of our model.
We proactively plan our business and map our capacity to the needs of our customers. The plans for lifelong learning need to align with the advancements of our customers and vice versa. We create value for our customers by staying fresh, relevant, trustworthy and knowledgeable. In the last month, we have taken on two graduates to train them in procurement methodology. Our team will never stop learning. We pride ourselves on being as knowledgeable about the market as our customer and their suppliers to be able to guide them on the right path to make the best decision.
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
iDDea wants to be the procurement partner of choice for any size company in Ireland and Europe: because we care because we understand the challenges and because we can deliver results. We make a difference to the bottom line of any company, our average ROI is 10:1 and when you bring it back to basics, we take the hassle out of buying right and buying the right thing. Call it old fashion, but procurement is all about applying common sense: the decision process, the people you engage with, the context and environment that empowers or immobilizes you, the knowledge and value you share. We know that sense is not always that common but we are looking forward to delivering it and with that, Value beyond Savings.
When do you plan to retire or give up working?
I will probably never give up working as I honestly love being busy but I might decide to take some time out to go back to college. I am an everlasting student and find myself fascinated by so many various topics and disciplines that I feel my life would not be complete if I would not take time out to re-group and adjust what I am doing now. Or it might just happen that it validates that what I am currently doing is exactly what is what I want to do for the rest of my life.