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Chris Halward is the GSA Associate Director of Global Standards & Professional Development and will be chairing a series of workshops over the four meetings in 2018 of the new GSA Ireland. Ahead of the first GSA Ireland Sourcing Excellence Day, to be held at Ulster Bank, Belfast, on March 1st, Chris told us a little bit about what to expect from the workshops and why the GSA Lifecycle is an especially useful model for Irish businesses in the current economic climate.

Chris, thanks so much for joining us today. In your role of Associate Director of Global Standards & Professional Development at the GSA, you’re running a series of four workshops over the course of the four GSA Ireland meetings this year: one for each of the stages of the GSA Lifecycle. What was the thinking behind this approach as GSA Ireland gets up and running?

Chris Halward: The GSA lifecycle has been used by organisations across the world as a powerful framework for strategic sourcing best practice.  A clear understanding of the lifecycle supports the assurance of strategic sourcing activity.  This reduces the potential for strategic sourcing arrangements to fail to meet expectations, and significantly reduces the costs of setting up and running long-term strategic sourcing arrangements. Moreover, risk is more effectively managed, and compliance with regulations is improved.

The lifecycle is an integrated and inter-dependent process.  It is a process that in the real world may run over many years.  Over that time it will involve many people who will contribute in specific ways at different points in the lifecycle. Breaking down the lifecycle into its four core phases helps to clarify what can often be a highly complex and confusing process for people who are expected to contribute.  In my experience most people who contribute have no training in strategic sourcing.

What do you think currently characterises the Irish sourcing industry and landscape  – and will you be modifying the content of your workshops as a result?

CH: GSA workshops have always been characterised by the way in which they allow delegates to relate content to their own situations. The Irish economy currently has some very real challenges. The projections are that it will sustainably grow, which means no doubt organisations will have many opportunities to explore. However, the rate of unemployment in Ireland is falling and wages are rising.  This means that organisations are likely to face skills shortages at a time when they are trying to grow their businesses - and they may also see costs increase significantly.

Ireland is also contending with the impact of Brexit. It is still far from clear how this will play out and affect the Irish economy and its organisations, both public and private.

Strategic sourcing decisions will be critical. The importance of effective design and management of strategic sourcing arrangements will be enormous: for many organisations it will be the difference over the next 5-10 years between success or failure. Developing the requisite skills is key. For many organisations strategic sourcing competencies will become core competencies.

Can you give us a couple of titbits from the first session you’re going to be running, in Belfast next month?

CH: The first session will focus on the hub and heart of the lifecycle model; the Strategic Leadership phase.  An understanding of this phase is vital to the understanding of the entire lifecycle.  We’ll be looking at some case examples where things have gone well - and where things haven’t - and asking where the problems were and what could have been done differently in hindsight.  I’m keen to get people talking and thinking about this in groups rather than it being ‘chalk and talk’.  The group work makes the sessions much more enjoyable for the delegates – and for me too.  I love hearing peoples’ views and experiences, and learn a lot myself.

We’re also going to look at the importance of establishing the ‘intent of the deal’. Too often I hear of arrangements that are set up, sometimes large ones worth many millions, where the purpose is at best vague – sometimes no one really knows why it was set up at all. 

Bearing in mind that the Belfast agenda also includes a session on Intelligent Automation are you expecting to encounter a lot of AI-related questions in your workshop? And how if at all have you adapted your workshops recently to cater for the rise of automation technology?

CH: Well, it is not an AI workshop. However, automation is - and in fact has been for many years - at the heart of strategic sourcing decisions. The fundamental question in strategic sourcing is “where can I source the services required to ensure that my operating model is optimised?”. That means taking into account automation and how that automation can best be sourced and managed. Sometimes that will result in bringing services back in house, sometimes the opposite. Strategic Leadership, though, is the lifecycle activity phase in which the decisions are made and this workshop will address them.

If you could sum up in one sentence what people should expect as takeaways from your session what would it be?

CH: “A clear appreciation of the lifecycle model and insight into how to ensure the success of strategic sourcing.”

For more information on the GSA Ireland Sourcing Excellence Day, taking place March 1st 2018 at Ulster Bank, Belfast, click here.

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