Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Our thoughts from the CIPS Middle East conference 2015

Last week we were generously invited by our partners, ArcBlue, to join their exhibition stand and sponsored dinner at the CIPS Middle East Conference 2015 in Abu Dhabi.

ArcBlue is the sole provider of training services for CIPS in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and have been using our tools as a training aid for their workshops.

It was a fantastic opportunity to explore a new market that we knew little about whilst furthering our partnership.  

The trip was immensely aided by two friends and local Emiratis whom I knew from Bristol University.  Quite frankly I was spoiled rotten!
Ali and I posing in front of Marina Beach, Dubai
To begin with my economy flight with Etihad Airways on their brand new Airbus A380 was wonderful, comparable to a business-class flight with Delta Airlines a few years ago.

Upon arrival, despite my friends having a nightmare day where they broke down in their boat, leading to their rescue by the coastguard, and lost their house-keys and a mobile phone (a long story...), they still managed to greet me at the airport.  They had a taxi driver waiting outside, who had unofficially become their chauffeur for the day since their car-keys were also attached to the lost key-chain and it was their driver's day off!  However, 3 hours of taxi service only set you back about £30, so it was an affordable consolation. 

We headed back to their beautiful house equipped with pool, cook and maid - it's a life one could get very used to!

The evening passed with a lovely dinner in a new venue (an occurance that seems likely to occur on a daily basis given the rate of growth in the city) then onto the bars on Yas Island, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, before heading home for a sobering dip in the pool before bed.


One thing that did strike me was how quiet the city was considering this was the equivalent of a Saturday night out.  There was never a queue in sight, even in the most popular of venues.  This really hit home when the following morning we visited Masdar City, a purpose-built city to showcase renewable energy and a hub for cleantec companies.   Designed as a home for up to 50,000 people, it currently hopes to reach 10,000 inhabitants in the next 3 to 5 years.  As a result, it felt like the luxury set of an apocalypse movie!

On to the CIPS event.  The venue was the impressive Intercontinental Hotel, in which I had the pleasure the previous day of enjoying a business lunch and an afternoon on its private beach.  The event was smaller than those we've attended in London but well represented by many senior procurement folk, as expected by an event hosted by the professional body.  


As it happens, I didn't attend any of the talks, preferring instead to man the stand just in case (which paid dividends late on for one of the most interesting contacts I met all day), so I can't comment on them.  However David Noble, Duncan Brock and the CIPS President Babs Omotowa were all up on stage along with some very interesting local speakers.

What is great about the CIPS events is that the speakers actively network before and after their talks, so I did at least get to speak to the majority of them at various times of the day.  

One general theme was that the majority of public sector organisations were embedded with Oracle.  It appeared the government has encouraged, even perhaps mandated, their various organisations to use it.  An interesting approach, though not one I could see earning any friends if it were to happen here in the UK.

I frequently brought the topic of conversation onto eAuctions and as ever the appetite was divided.  However some  significant public sector entities admitted they plan to run some in the coming months, especially those with individuals in the team who had prior experience.  Reluctance typically came from those who were not familiar with the process, which is just what we see in Europe too.  We could call it the fear of the unknown.  Hopefully some easy, intuitive and on-demand eAuction tools could help ease that fear with little risk :)

This year we were also invited to the dinner event, the first we've attended.  The CIPS MENA awards were handed out following a groundhog day shortlist process involving Jumeira Group and Etihad Airways.  Amazingly, these two organisations, combined, were shortlisted 12 times out of 9 team awards!  Etihad ended up as the overall winner.  As clients of ArcBlue, it was quite a good evening for them by affiliation too.


Anyhow, it was a very worthwhile trip with lots of interesting new contacts to keep in touch with, not least our pleasure in meeting more of the ArcBlue team. 


About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

UWE and Market Dojo collaborate

By working closely with the Bristol Business School of the University of the West of England (UWE), Market Dojo, a young business in the South West, is able to form a very real synergistic relationship.


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As a local company, founded in Bristol, partnerships are seen as a very important strategy with respect to accelerating growth. And there are rarely better opportunities than partnering with academic institutions. Apart from forging stronger relationships with the local community there are powerful bilateral benefits for this type of bond.  

Two of the co-founders of Market Dojo, Alun Rafique and Nick Drewe presented at a local CIPS (Chartered Institute of procurement and Supply) event in the Street Cafe and were looking to work more closely with UWE. This opportunity was afforded to Market Dojo though Dr Amit Mitra from the Dept of Strategy & Operations Management.  This was an opportunity to present a guest lecture at one of his courses and also to write a real life case study based on Market Dojo that the students are able to pick from a variety of other cases.

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Now in the fourth year, Market Dojo has a very popular lecture slot in the module for virtual business and the now compulsory case study is worth 50% of the marks and involves a video submission.

One of the focal points of the course, and probably the most memorable parts for all concerned, is the game that Market Dojo have devised and run during the second half of their lecture.  The lecture is based around a specific part of their solution - eAuctions - and how they help industry negotiate quickly and efficiently for goods and services.  The game is focused on using the platform to bid for a variety of Lots and by using some very simple conditions, and a sliver of game theory, the winner is decided by the team that wins the most Lots.  


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Nick Drewe explains “This game brings a high level of interaction to the lectures and drives home how Market Dojo uses innovative technology to help businesses reduce their costs. We would encourage this type of interaction between local business and universities as all parties benefit.  We gain fresh insight on how our tool is used by newcomers, whilst the students learn how professional organisations can negotiate via auctions“

Dr Amit Mitra says “This is the opportunity to give the students not only a real life and current case study, but by reinforcing with a guest lecture, it gives the students a very real backdrop for their submission.  The students also enjoy the ability to interact with a company going through rapid growth and gain an understanding of the practicalities in overcoming the challenges that are faced”.

Alun Rafique from Market Dojo highlights “We have the opportunity to share our experience with a group of young minds and we have the ability to understand many different views which quite often provide insightful feedback on potential solutions to our dilemmas.  On top of this the course has a pool of talented students that will go into business with the ability to spread the word, perhaps even as employees of ours!”

It has been a real success and this type of co-operation should be encouraged.  It results in many more benefits for all parties than simply giving students a stale or unrealistic case study.  And the students are the real winners with practical assignments and a greater understanding of becoming entrepreneurs themselves.

Market Dojo offers easy to use, professional e-sourcing software as a service.  Founded in 2010 and based in Bristol their aim is to provide accessible solutions to procurement professionals enabling them to save time and money on their purchasing activities.

UWE is one of Britain's most popular universities, with more than 30,000 students and is the largest providers of higher education in the south west of England.  Bristol UWE is consistently one of Britain's leading new universities for quality in teaching and has a strong research tradition.




About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Greenwich University and Market Dojo collaborate

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Market Dojo, a start up specialising in e- procurement Software - as - a - Service (SaaS), is constantly looking to expand its sphere of influence through short, medium and long term relationships.  A viable business needs to be based on all three to have a long term future. Working closely with academic institutions is an ideal vehicle for satisfying all three conditions.


Market Dojo, who work in the eProcurement space have forged a close relationship with the University of Greenwich in their International Procurement and Purchasing course led by Dr Li Zhou.  For four years, two of the co-founders of Market Dojo, Alun Rafique and Nick Drewe, have presented and currently help with a key lecture in the MA of Logistics and Supply Chain Management.


The lecture is based on Market Dojo’s initial proposition on which the company was founded four years ago.  This focuses on an innovative technology for negotiation called the reverse auction, which Market Dojo have made more accessible through an easy to use, on demand solution that lets procurement professionals more readily negotiate their goods and services.  

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Embedded in the lecture is a game that Market Dojo has developed which combines the elements of using Software-as-a-Service, negotiation and game theory.  


Alun Rafique reveals “This game gives the students a background into a key element of an emerging technology which is at the heart of their course.  On top of this it shows how Market Dojo developed its original strategy and shows the benefits and challenges that companies face when adopting new technology.”


Dr. Li Zhou, who is a Reader in Operations Management at the department of Systems Management and Strategy, readily saw the advantages in working with a real life start-up based in the procurement space. She says “Market Dojo has given my students an insider view to how a start-up in this area can create value for businesses whilst also showing them how a small company can grow and challenge much larger competition through innovative on-demand technology”


Market Dojo often works with academics to help provide real life examples to students and there are many reciprocal benefits. The feedback from the students is very insightful and can help shape Market Dojo’s product and even provide answers to their own challenges.  Further to this it helps spread awareness and can help with recruitment.


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Nick Drewe mentions “It is key for small businesses as well as large multinationals to work with academic institutions to give students a holistic view of all elements of the modern company.  We find that students are especially interested in our entrepreneurial view as many want to start a business themselves.”


Market Dojo hopes to expand their relationship with the University of Greenwich and is looking at other research opportunities there.  They are also working with more diverse training providers by offering their software to help with general training in the field of eSourcing.  It is by working with this area of education where there are obvious benefits for both parties that help Market Dojo forge strong relationships and a real long term strategy.


Market Dojo offers easy to use, professional e-sourcing software as a service.  Founded in 2010 and based in Bristol their aim is to provide accessible solutions to procurement professionals enabling them to save time and money on their purchasing activities.


The University of Greenwich is one of London's largest universities and celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2014. The university has three iconic campuses in London and Kent, and a heritage of education, discovery and technological innovation. An ambitious institution, it takes an innovative and modern approach to teaching, research and enterprise, and is thoroughly committed to making sure that students achieve their potential.



About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Top 3 Tips on Creating Compelling Case Studies

Writing a case study is easy.

Writing a case study that is engaging, compelling and entices the reader to do more is another matter altogether.


Companies structure their case studies in different way in terms of paragraphs, bullet points or a combination of both. Which one of these is correct is hard to say and maybe does not matter. However the actual content of the Case Study does.


I've put together some points to consider when you’re writing a case study:


1.      Follow a Formatting Framework



Reading big blocks of text can be boring. Make sure to break this up with compelling images and screenshots and informative bullet points. Make your case study easy to read and therefore easy for your reader to get involved in the story.




2.      Encourage Empathy

If someone has clicked on a particular case study, that must mean they have drawn some form of connection to it - a bond if you will. This may be because they share something similar, the reader feels they may be able to relate to the particular industry for example. To do this, it is important to retain the reader’s attention. Tell a story and make it personal. Highlight how the needs of the industry your share have been met by this particular product /service.


3.      Focus on Facts, Figures and Benefits

People like facts. Fact.

Including specific figures such as ‘achieved savings of 25%’ allows one to see real-life, specific examples of what they could expect to obtain. Giving your readers examples of quantifiable, tangible results alongside a story they can relate to makes for a very powerful case study.


I feel that these are a few of the important points to consider when tasked with creating an interesting case study. There are many more elements to think about, but this should provide a sturdy base to start you off.

What other elements should be taken into consideration? 


Have you come across any other key factors that you would like to share which have made your case studies interesting for the reader?



About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Monday, 27 April 2015

Top tips to forecast your savings

As a procurement team, you're expected to deliver savings.  Hence one of your key activities at the beginning of the financial year is to forecast how much you shall achieve.  This is where things get both tricky and diverse!

In our many years in the procurement industry, we've seen several approaches to this. Some procurement leaders devolve the task to the individual team members, a sensible move given they usually have knowledge of the intricate details.  

Others simply apply a low percentage figure across their entire third-party spend, confident that in general the savings can be accomplished but not confident enough to suggest which spend categories specifically, believing that procurement is less of a science and more of an art form.

Whilst that may be true, in our view there are definitely scientific elements that can be incorporated into an activity as daunting as predicting your savings.  So here are 5 key attributes you should quantify in order to banish gut feel in favour of calculated assumptions.

1) Influenceable spend:  it may be tempting to prioritise your savings potential across the greatest spend areas.  However, that is pursuing vanity over substance.  Even though one spend area may be worth £100m per annum, it is important to establish how much of this spend can actually be influenced by procurement.  Energy is a classic example.  The majority of the spend consist of levies, wholesale prices and operating costs.  All that you typically negotiate are the management fees and profit margins of the supplier, which can be very small percentages.

Contract end dates are also a major factor when considering what spend can be influenced.  We've encountered clients with 30 year contracts.  Without triggering the early termination clauses, contracts can result in large chunks of spend being omitted from your plans.

2) Key cost drivers:  with any spend category, it is important to have at least a basic understanding of what influences the underlying costs.  It may be currency fluctuations or raw material indices, employment rates, taxes, duties & levies, wholesale costs and so on.  Therefore to accurately forecast your savings, it is important both to estimate how much of your spend is subject to cost driver movement and to what extent they have shifted since your last contract negotiation or spot-buy.


3) Negotiation history:  it is unwise to predict future savings without understanding past achievements.  For example, a contract that was recently penned after a scrupulous reverse auction process is highly unlikely to deliver further savings without changing the scope of the goods or service.  However a spend area that has been left unmanaged for a number of years can readily yield savings.  Use historical performance to quantify what opportunities have been left on the table.


4) Market forces:  ideally you'll be procuring your goods and services from a fragmented supply market that has healthy levels of competition and motivated SMEs with appetite for your business.  This way you're highly likely be able to succeed with your negotiation outcomes to source that ideal supply partner.   Analyse the market for each of your spend categories in order to accurately judge your savings potential. 


5) Specifications:  the devil is in the detail.  Whilst you wouldn't want to get bogged down during your budget planning with digging out CAD drawings, contract terms, SLAs and other spec. related materials, it is most certainly worth knowing conceptually how available and accurate such information may be.  It would be unwise to pin a significant saving against a spend category that cannot be readied for negotiation, or even worse, may be cancelled mid-way through the tender due to poorly defined requirements.  


€50m had to be spent on 'shaving' French train platforms that were too narrow to fit the new trains due to an oversight when preparing the spec.
There are a myriad of other factors that can weigh into your savings potential aside from those above.  For example the prowess of your organisation's brand or inter-linking your spend categories to ensure you leverage all of your spend with a particular supplier instead of focusing on each category in isolation.  Therefore it isn't an easy task but it can be simplified by adopting a robust methodogy.

It is this methodology that enabled us to create our Category Dojo app to help organisations across the globe estimate their savings forecasts to within a few percentage points.  If you're curious, try it out to learn how it can be done.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Are eAuctions' benefits also their Achilles heel?


“An Achilles heel is a deadly weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially lead to downfall.”

eAuctions are a great negotiation tool when used correctly.  However a supplier recently mentioned to us that they will no longer take part in eAuctions and will only take part in RFx’s (Request for Information/ Proposal or Quotation).  When asked why,  they said they had recently taken part in several eAuctions, in which they finished in the pole position only to see the business awarded to the incumbent.

In the CIPS guide to eAuctions its research highlights: “60% of buyer auctions are awarded to incumbent suppliers with only 22% of these suppliers reported to have won an auction on price alone.”  This can be understandably frustrating.

However, is this a good enough reason to decide to not take part?  Auctions have purportedly brought many benefits to table.  They are quicker, more efficient and transparent than traditional sealed RFQ’s and face to face negotiations.  They have also been claimed to improve supplier relationships (iAdapt research from UWE) and further to this there is no reason why you can't bring the top suppliers in after an eAuction to discuss the other parts of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for example (obviously referring to the private sector!).

Lets examine the mainstream alternative which normally takes the guise of a sealed RFQ.  Here bids are submitted, you would have no feedback on your position and would simply find out if you have won or not. Even if there is a face to face discussion, it is likely that the specifications would not be as tight as in an eAuction, which results in an even less quantifiable result.  However, many suppliers seem to favour this.

Does finding out their position in an eAuction put suppliers off? It could be that 95% of business is awarded to an incumbent from an RFQ but suppliers are not informed of their position. Is this a case of what you don’t know won’t hurt you?
And perhaps suppliers can more easily hide margins during an RFQ or even face to face negotiation as they are just not pushed hard enough. In reality an eAuction is a far more time efficient way of negotiating.  If we wanted to take part in an Auction, we might go below our list price if we want the business and the price is sustainable.  If we still lose then at least we acted competitively and we have more feedback. However to reproduce this competition in a RFQ or face to face negotiation is much more difficult which is perhaps why some suppliers are hesitant about eAuctions.  We will also concede that during an RFQ process, you are more likely to have more personal contact with the buyer although this can be the case in an eAuction process too.


What do you think?

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Bringing the 'e' into 'eSourcing'

You are an experienced procurement professional. You have been completing tenders via phone and email since 2001. 

When you need a quote, you simply pick up the phone, call your suppliers, get a few prices and go with whichever one can deliver first. Sometimes you find yourself asking; is this the most profitable way of operating? Is there a better way of working which could allow me to include more suppliers? If I want to find out what was paid and from whom the last time I bought a specific item, do I have to scroll through hundreds of emails to find out? Your current way is clunky and frustrating at times, but that's just how it's done... or is it?

One day, you leap up from your desk and cry 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! There must be another way.', after plugging 'eSourcing software' into Google, you go in search of a more simple, more accountable way of sourcing what you need. Due to the easy to adopt, pay as you host SaaS Model offered, you opt for Market Dojo.

After signing up for free on the site, you log in and head to the Sandpit to create your first eTender. But what is all this jargon? Your comfort blanket of ignorance has been removed and now you have to learn a whole new world of terms and phrases, varying processes, different types of auctions, and strategies to make your event successful. Quite overwhelming really? Nope.



The Market Dojo team are a kind breed and want to make the transition from prehistoric tendering to suave eSourcing as smooth as possible.

Not only have we made our system really easy to adopt for yourselves and your suppliers, all of the fields which may cause confusion are marked with an 'i', when you hover over this, you are provided with in-depth details of  what it means. If you're still feeling bamboozled, we have also provided you with a wealth of resources and videos which you can access for free after registering on the site.

Our resources really allow you to get to grips with how the tool works. From demystifying jargon to providing you with templates for uploading lots, the resource page is a great means of finding out what you need to know. And you can access them in your own time, for free.

With over 30 video tutorials, divided into supplier support and participant advice, you can really find out all you need to know without even having to pick up the phone. If your suppliers get confused, you have a host of knowledge at your finger tips ready to pass on.  

For example, here is the video made for us by the students at University of Gloucester summing up this blog post:


 

Before you know it, you've signed up to Market Dojo (Did I mention it's free?), watched a couple of tutorials, created 3 RFQs, a PPQ and a £10,000,000 auction on stationery, all ready to go live once you purchase your licence. You've done it all by yourself, without having to arrange any meetings with the Market Dojo team, no complicated supplier webinars across differing time zones. And if you did need to ask for help, you can always pop us a question on live chat where one of the very knowledgeable team can offer you some light consultancy advice.


Well, what are you waiting for? Head over to our site, check out our resources for yourself and make the easy move to eSourcing for yourself.


About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com