An Interview on Why Now Is The Time to Be In Procurement with Stephen Day

Why Now Is The Time to Be In Procurement

For this episode of Supplier Experience Live from HICX, we are joined by Stephen Day. Stephen is Chief Procurement Officer at Kantar, a data analytics and brand consulting media company based in London. Stephen’s expertise is wide ranging, from operations management, to supply chain management, multi-country transformation and change management. Stephen talks to us about why now is the best time to get a foot in the door of the procurement industry.

An exciting time for Procurement

The reason why Stephen chose Procurement, he explains, is because he believes Procurement and Supply Chain are the backbone of any business.

“Most businesses buy something; they add value and transform it and they sell it to somebody. And that process of creating value and transforming, a large measure of that is based on the supply chain,” he adds.

Stephen says that COVID-19 has made enterprises rethink how they approach procurement, “I think procurement has to really change dramatically. I think the pandemic has exposed the lack of digital enablement in procurement, it has exposed a lot of businesses”, he continues. He expects to see more focus on ESG sustainability goals such as diversity, inclusion and sustainability, rather than purely focusing on cost-saving related KPIs.

The advice Stephen would give to those just starting out their career in Procurement is to focus on things that will yield results long-term, rather than superficial matters. “In the early part of your career don’t be so focused on the job titles or the perception of what you do. Think of it in terms of ‘are you picking up and learning new skills, are you learning to cope with different stuff?’”

Priorities to focus on to ensure overall success

When it comes to digital transformation, Stephen remains surprised that such little progress has been made in the past twenty to thirty years. “Procurement has, historically, had a reputation as a real kind of nuts-and-bolts function. I’m very surprised that there are large parts of our economy that have still not automated and streamlined those processes,” he states.

A barrier to those processes is, of course, data and data quality. Stephen claims that even today procurement professionals do not understand the importance of good data, and they don’t take it seriously. “The reason why master data around your suppliers is increasingly important is because all of us are being faced increasingly by questions about not only what are you doing for diversity, inclusion, environment and so on within your own business, but what’s happening down in tier-one, tier-two, or tier-three of your supply chain. If you haven’t got the right infrastructure from a data perspective on your suppliers, you have really got no hope of capturing that data.”

In his experience, a lot of companies are still trying to capture and manage their supplier data in a manual way, rather than using contemporary systems and tools. “I think everybody knows the minute you go offline, when you finish that project, that data is out of date. Data is a very fluid asset that constantly needs to be harvested and managed”, he highlights.

ESG sustainability focus should be at the top of mind of all CPOs, according to Stephen, as diversity, inclusion and sustainability become more and more important.

On the topic of sustainability, Stephen explains, “What I see a lot of companies trying to do, is cover all the bases, regardless of whether those activities bear any relationship to their direct operations. I think where you can be most powerful – and most impactful – is linking the environmental agenda to the very direct things that you know that you can impact and influence. Our issue is energy as we use data centers. So, we can positively focus on that,” he concludes.

The importance of innovation and what we will see from Kantar

Stephen believes innovation is a brilliant way for all types of organizations, from large enterprises to small businesses, to drive their industries forward in a way that matters and makes a difference. He provides an example from Unilever: “I think I am right in saying, there is a product that they built in India, which is around soap. And the soap has a particular bump in it – and the bump is a physical reminder for women to check for breast cancer.”

Stephen has ensured these innovative values are also implemented within Kantar – a reason why they are now in the early stages of implementing procurement technology, working on data and data quality, and thinking about diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. They hope to announce ambitious targets in the near future.

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