Facing the new normal: top tips from procurement professionals

Article by Achilles

As part of the Achilles response to the global disruption COVID-19 has caused, we conducted a COVID-19 business continuity survey where we asked customers how their businesses are confronting the disruption in different business units including: health and safety, environment and sustainability, cyber risk, and ethical business management. A huge number of our customers participated in the survey enabling us to conclude that there are high levels of confidence around the visibility of risk and the mitigation plans in place. This is largely consistent across regions and sectors.

However, according to the survey responses there’s still some work to be done around business continuity plans and how to engage with supply chains to minimise disruption. While 59% of respondents have communicated with their supply chains around the measures that they are taking, 30% are not engaging with their supply chain on specific recommendations.

A clear theme is that collaboration is key, so we’ve gathered some feedback from our expert partners about how and where to focus efforts and some insight on what the ‘new normal’ might look like.

Cybersecurity, Ruby Pope, Head of Marketing and Strategy, Darkbeam

Proactively engaging with your suppliers to keep them secure against cyber threats translates into understanding what’s at stake, mapping the levels of cyber risk across your supply chain and having the resources that enable your company to benchmark them.“, Ruby Rope

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As working from home becomes part of the new normal for many employees, this trend is causing a rapid increase in the volume of cyberattacks that compromise sensitive data from companies worldwide. Looking beyond your own company security contingency plans is key.

Proactively engaging with your suppliers to keep them secure against cyber threats translates into understanding what’s at stake, mapping the levels of cyber risk across your supply chain and having the resources that enable your company to benchmark them.

Achilles and Darkbeam’s partnership aims to help procurement teams identify and visualise critical cyber threats in real time, so you can easily interrogate levels of cyber risk across your supply chain and work with your suppliers to mitigate these risks before a cyber-attack can be launched.

Risk Management and Business Continuity, Javier Caravantes, Chief Procurement Officer and Achilles Ambassador

The new normal can be summed up in two words, planning and collaboration. Both are key when it comes to diversifying suppliers and being prepared for immediate changes in supply chain trends.“, Javier Caravantes

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COVID-19 will mark a ‘before’ and ‘after’ when it comes to risk management in supply chains worldwide. Companies will be forced to adapt to new digital supply chain models, supported by secure information exchange technologies, such as blockchain.

Now more than ever, it is essential to manage the risk associated with individual suppliers. Relying on solutions that provide a complete view of your supplier base, coupled with the ability to access a whole range of alternative and qualified suppliers in real time. The new normal can be summed up in two words, planning and collaboration. Both are key when it comes to diversifying suppliers and being prepared for immediate changes in supply chain trends.

Financial Risk, Chris Robertson, CEO Creditsafe UK & Ireland

It’s also true that underlying financial data remains essential. Some solid businesses will be facing significant cash flow issues but are unlikely to vanish overnight and bad companies are not going to suddenly become good after the injection of a temporary government loan“, Chris Robertson

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Accurate usable information on company credit records are a vital tool in enabling businesses to exploit opportunity and mitigate the risk of bad debt. But does the economic challenge posed by the pandemic mean you have to change your approach?

The good news is that the fundamentals still apply and always will. When you take on a new customer, can they pay you on time? What are their chances of going under and how should that affect the terms on which you are prepared to trade? Most businesses have continued to trade through the pandemic and the information held on them remains valid. Although we may not be getting Companies House and court data in the usual way we still receive millions of payment data records every month providing insight as to how businesses are paying their bills right now. Use that information to help protect you.

It’s also true that underlying financial data remains essential. Some solid businesses will be facing significant cash flow issues but are unlikely to vanish overnight and bad companies are not going to suddenly become good after the injection of a temporary government loan.

The pandemic has hit different businesses in different ways and there is no one size fits all approach to how you can assess the resulting risk. At Creditsafe, we have developed a specific Covid-19 Impact Score to be used alongside our core credit score to help gauge the level of additional distress that a company may be facing. Used alongside the other elements in a credit report and your own customer knowledge you can draw a full picture of the risk involved in any current or new business.

The important thing is not to over-react, keep a calm head, use the tools available to you and who knows as well as managing risk you may also spot some new opportunities!

Health and Safety, Robin Critchard, Senior SHE Advisor – Subsea and Marine at CNR International (UK) Ltd.

The new normal may be neither new or normal but merely adapting better to working with the old“, Robin Critchard

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The requirement to adapt has seen great strides made to the remote Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis (HIRA) process for example. Improved planning and understanding of who should be participating, and an appropriate focus on the work-scope risks has ensured that the process is identifying not only the associated hazards but also the correct actions to be taken and by whom.

Conversely, I don’t see the same level of adaption being achieved for Oil and Gas Operators internal teams adopting remote audits, which could bring significant improvements in terms of efficiency and value. An inability to be physically present at the audit location should in no way preclude any organisation from understanding the level of compliance to requirements being achieved. In actual fact, what it could reveal is opportunities to understand where transparency to and availability of that information should be improved to aid the verification process.

We don’t really understand what the new normal will be yet. Perhaps it’s not new at all, rather a process or way of working that wasn’t previously fully implemented and/or wasn’t fully exploited (whether through efficiency, value or lack of investment). It then becomes better understood, accepted and adopted as a consequence of how we’ve had to adapt.

Environment and sustainability, Shaun McCarthy OBE, Chairman Supply Chain Sustainability School

Sustainability took a back seat in previous crises; however, it is not the role it has taken in these unprecedented times.“, Shaun McCarthy OBE

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Sustainable procurement is not a new concept but it was codified into an international standard in 2017 with the publication of ISO 20400. It applies to all types and sizes of organisation, from all sectors. It fits well with ISO 26000 and ISO 14001, describing how to address sustainability beyond the bounds of your own organisation and into the supply chain.
The four sections of the standard cover the strategic process. Starting with Fundamentals, it is necessary for organisations to create a ‘Golden Thread’ between organisational ambition and what to expect from your supply chain. The next section, Policy and Strategy describes how to translate these requirements into something the supply chain can understand. This is often described in a policy document or ‘Charter’ (example available here)
One size does not fit all in sustainable procurement and the next section of the standard deals with how to organise your procurement function. Critical to this is the concept of setting priorities, understanding which categories of supply make the biggest contribution to your sustainability risks and opportunities. Finally, the procurement process itself. If you have good procurement processes, they won’t need much change, you will just need to add your sustainability objectives to the many outcomes you try to achieve through good procurement. A few things to consider.
• It may be necessary to invest in building capacity in your supply chain, just dumping requirements on suppliers and relying entirely on the PQQ/tender process won’t work on its own
• The culture of “let and forget” won’t work either. It is necessary to manage the sustainability performance of your supply chain is essential. What you measure is what you get
• If sustainable procurement is done well it should not add cost. Sustainability should not cost you more but bad procurement will.

Next steps for buyers

We have been actively facilitating supply chain collaboration as part of our crisis response and will continue monitoring and supporting our customers via our COVID-19 Microsite.

If you have any questions or need support managing your business operations throughout the crisis, we are here to help.



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