Up In the Air: Tales of Travel

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By: Sakthi Prasad -- Director - Content

01 December, 2019

Procurement Travel
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procurement-travel

Procurement is mostly seen as a desk job. Not many people working in other functions know that sourcing managers travel across the globe for site visits, audits, supplier meetings and so on. 

Holiday travel would be in everyone’s mind as 2019 slowly draws to a close. In keeping with the year-end spirit, two industry veterans -- Andrew Savage of MTN and Luis Gile of IBM -- had graciously agreed to share their business travel experiences exclusively for the readers of Procurement Espresso. Have a feedback? Write to us: contactus@beroe-inc.com.

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(Pic Courtesy: Andrew Savage)

1) How much travel is required in your current job profile?

We have a centralized procurement function in Dubai, UAE, where I am based, and we also have around 150 additional procurement team members spread across our footprint. In order to meet our key stakeholders and since our head office is in South Africa, I generally travel five to six times every year. An essential part of my role is to spend time with our teams on the ground and to take the time to conduct workshops on different concepts and work collaboratively with our stakeholders.

Procurement is anything but a desk job, you absolutely need to be out and about to get a true sense of how the market is moving. If you grow roots in this industry, then you are as good as dead; you need to be agile and nimble with your eyes wide open and your ear to the ground.
 

2) How often do you travel to meet suppliers (current or potential) or for business conferences in a year?

I do not specifically travel to meet suppliers very often, typically my meetings with vendors are through skype or telepresence or if they come to our offices in Dubai. With the quality of video links being so good these days, virtual meetings are preferential and save cost, time, and the environment! I do love to get to conferences whenever my schedule permits. I recently attended the Digital Procurement World in Amsterdam which was one of the most diverse and interesting conferences I have ever attended. I find that such conferences help to keep you up to date with the latest trends and they give me an opportunity to validate our use cases with people from other industries. At MTN, we are often asked to speak at various events which is a great way to share our stories, and hopefully, inspire a few people along the way.
 

3) If you get a chance to travel for a business meeting along with your CPO, what are some of the topics that you will look forward to discussing with him/her?

I travel quite regularly with my CPO and we always have discussions around the strategy that we are delivering and the transformation programs that we are engaged in. We often focus on the digital trends within procurement and how can we further expand these within our organization. Often over dinner -- when the usual business activities are not going on -- is when some of the most creative ideas are born. Over the course of a business trip we usually cover every topic from RPA, machine learning, and AI through to real estate, holiday locations, and wine. After all, it cannot all be business talk!
 

4) Are there any interesting travel anecdotes, including non-business events that you may have encountered during your business travel, which you can share with the readers?

I have randomly ended up in quite a few African weddings! Inadvertently stumbling across a wedding in the lobby of a hotel and kind of being ushered in as a guest. This has happened twice actually, once in Cameroon and once in Nigeria. A great way to meet new people!

Many years ago, when I was part of a consulting project in Sudan, I accidentally packed mismatched shoes. One was black, and one was dark brown. I wore them for an entire week and nobody said a word!

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(Pic Courtesy: Luis Gile)

1) How much travel is required in your current job profile?

Travel typically depends on the needs of my client. Usually, when I travel, I am away for a week at a time. The frequency of travel is approximately once every two months, but there have been times when I have been on site for three weeks in a month throughout the year.


2) How often do you travel to meet suppliers (current or potential) or for business conferences in a year?

I attend two conferences each year, ProcureCon and AIA. I mostly travel to meet suppliers. As my area of expertise is design and construction, the most frequent reason for traveling is to lead a pre-bid walk-through of a project site with new or prospective suppliers. 
 

3) If you get a chance to travel for a business meeting along with your CPO/Head of Procurement, what are some of the topics that you will look forward to discussing with him/her?

I like to speak with CPO's about processes and standardization. In construction, the strongest lever for savings is standardization. This is also the most difficult to achieve, so that tends to be the topic that I mostly discuss.


4) Are there any interesting travel anecdotes, including non-business events that you may have encountered during your business travel, which you can share with the readers?

Last year while travelling to Saudi Arabia, my connecting flight in Dubai was cancelled even before I landed. It is not unusual to have a flight cancelled, but this cancelled fight resulted in a 17 hour layover. Needless to say, I missed my first few meetings, but in exchange for my trouble the airline put me up in a hotel, free of charge and upgraded the rest of my trip to first class. That was my first time flying first class and I look forward to the opportunity to travel that way again someday.