Best Practices from SIG University Part III: Key Takeaways

by Jamie Liddell, Editor, Outsource and Co-Head of EMEA, SIG

In our final installment in the discussion on the importance of education and the value of options like SIG University, Jamie Liddell shares key takeaways from students who hailed from Honda North America, PNM Resources and Florida Blue.

Students Become Teachers
An “enthusiasm for feedback” was highlighted by Esteban Valenzuela, a project manager with Honda North America Indirect Procurement, as a critical aspect of SIG University. According to Esteban, the suggestions made by the students as they went through the course as to how it might be improved were assessed, and solutions implemented in real time by the SIG U staff (in Esteban’s words, “Throughout the course I have made many recommendations and the SIG staff have already made many changes.”)

Having come to the end of the course and with the ability to look back holistically on the experience, we asked our students what other suggestions they could make to keep SIG University firmly on the continuous improvement pathway. Without revealing too much, the depth and variety of the feedback (from the structural – with Tammy Way, a Sourcing Consultant for Generation at PNM Resources, who suggested we launch two new certifications; to the tactical – with Esteban’s advice to develop workbooks, videos and enhanced interactivity) was heartwarming evidence of the degree to which the students had embraced the course and wished to contribute their own efforts to SIG University’s success: exactly the kind of philosophy which SIG U and the broader SIG family seek to develop within the sourcing profession as a whole.

Key Takeaways
While confident that our students would benefit as individuals both from the knowledge gained during the course and from the Certified Sourcing Professional certification they achieved at its end, we were keen to discover which specific aspects of the course they thought would be most useful as their careers progress.

For Esteban Valenzuela, it was simply impossible to highlight one particular aspect of the course above the others: while the latter parts felt “more focused on project/category management,” “all the topics I believe are relevant to all business careers; however, I don’t believe I can pinpoint one aspect from the course that would be of most value at this time as I feel a good understanding of all aspects are vital to a person’s success.”

Tammy Way meanwhile stood at the other end of the spectrum with one particular aspect very much leaping out: “I loved the Sourcing Wheel sections and have printed the wheel out and hung it in my office. It’s a great way to visualize the processes and their interdependencies.”

For Allison Brown, a ten-year procurement and vendor management professional working for Florida Blue, “The communication and strategic points within the various modules were very helpful. Our organization is taking steps to begin to implement Category Management and as we do that there were certain points provided in the information that assisted in laying out how we would go in that direction. There were also good project plan recommendations that can be instituted overall throughout the procurement organization.”

The Greater Good
Finally, with an eye on SIG U’s mission to help not just its individual students but the sourcing profession as a whole excel, we asked our graduates how well they felt the topics and trends covered by the CSP course are understood by the sourcing community in the form of their peers both within and outside their own organisations.

Allison Brown highlighted the challenge posed by the very varied and diverse nature of the sourcing community and the different levels of maturity to be found within the space: “I believe that many people within our organization and the sourcing industry do understand the topics discussed but at different levels of understanding. While one person may understand contract negotiations in depth they may not understand how to put a communication plan together. Or maybe they understand the tactical components but do not under the strategic aspects of gaining buy-in from their leadership. That is why the sourcing industry as a whole needs something that provides that foundational information that level sets the understanding between all the players. From what I can tell Sig U seems to have understood that gap and created something that can provide a foundational understanding to all the students.”

Esteban Valenzuela pointed at three trends in particular, covered in detail by the course, that the sourcing function as a whole needs to get up to speed on extremely quickly if it is to maintain the maximum relevance and utility to the business: “New and emerging technologies, BPOs, and security are current trends that I believe sourcing professionals need to pay close attention to in 2016. As new tech enters the market at an accelerated rate we companies must explore how to leverage these new tools and products to increase not only productivity but efficacy. Furthermore, as companies’ need for real-time information at their fingertips grows, the necessity for increased protection of that information is never more apparent than today.”

Last but by no means least, Tammy Way referred to some of the soft skills covered by the CSP course – skills vital to addressing some of the most intractable challenges facing sourcing professionals anywhere: “I think our department understands the trends well even if we are sometimes met with the challenge of how to achieve the buy-in needed to get our clients on board or to see the value-add. As an organization, we have a steep learning curve when it comes to recognizing the need of supply chain to become more integrated into the business model and evolve in time with market trends.”

The Next Generation
As one day ends, another begins…six months since SIG University opened its doors, and three months since the students featured in this article graduated, our third cohort of students have just begun their Certified Sourcing Professional course. The experiences of the first two classes of students have been assessed and absorbed by the SIG University team, and feedback of the kind mentioned above has already proved invaluable in delivering immediate real-time improvements to the course.This is something to which SIG U is committed to doing on an ongoing basis, to ensure the very best experience and value is delivered to our students and thus to enable them to deliver the same degree of value to our profession as a whole. We firmly believe that by giving sourcing professionals the broadest and deepest possible knowledge set, in a structured way, combined with their sharing of their own learnings and experiences, we will be able to help drive the sourcing function further up the value chain and ever more firmly into the strategic sights of the wider organization – and we very much look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible into SIG University, to help us achieve just that.

Jamie Liddell is the Co-Head of SIG EMEA and Editor of Outsource, the leading global publication for the outsourcing, business services and business transformation space. During his five years at the helm, Outsource has grown from a compact UK-centric quarterly print magazine into a multi-faceted, globally facing content and event brand, delivering high-quality, high-level thought leadership to senior professionals the world over. Holding a Masters degree (in English) from the University of Cambridge, Jamie lives in London and is a proud parent, a published poet, and a terrible (if enthusiastic) singer.