4 Questions for Peter Smith, Host of the riskmethods SCRM Summit


The 3rd annual riskmethods Supply Chain Risk Management Summit is taking place in Hamburg and Boston next month, and we’re getting excited to unite and inspire supply chain risk management leaders and practitioners from around the globe. In anticipation of the event, I sat down with Peter Smith, long-time procurement expert and host of the Hamburg event, to catch up on his latest thoughts on the world of procurement.

Peter, we miss your work at Spend Matters. Tell us what you’ve been doing in the procurement world this year! 

Well, I’ve just published a book—called A Procurement Compendium—which is a collection of my favorite articles I’ve written over the years, mainly for Spend Matters. It’s available on Kindle in e-book form, as well as a real hard copy too! And I have finished the first draft of another book that a very large global firm is going to be publishing next autumn, which is really exciting. I’ve also done some writing and speaking with a few of my favorite supply chain software firms too—including, of course, getting ready to chair the riskmethods Supply Chain Risk Management Summit next month in Hamburg, which I’m looking forward to very much.   

Yes, the Summit! We’re so excited that you’ll be hosting the 3rd occurrence of this industry-leading SCRM event. What are you most looking forward to? 

Risk has become such a hot topic in recent years, and I’ve written a lot about it. But hearing real-life stories from practitioners at the Summit is probably what I’m most looking forward to. I love hearing about success—and it’s just as good sometimes to know what hasn’t worked, so I’m hoping we get some of that honesty too! Also, I haven’t been to Hamburg since the Houghton Grammar School (in the northeast of England) exchange visit with a Hamburg school in the 1970s, when as a 15-year-old I had my first trip out of the UK, by sea ferry! (I was VERY seasick…) 

You’ve seen a lot of your changes in your tenure in the procurement world. How has the concept and approach to risk changed over the years, in your opinion? 

If I go back some 30 years, supply chain risk in a manufacturing business was mainly around supply or supplier failure. Not getting what we’d ordered, because of strikes, weather, supplier bankruptcy or a fire at a factory, maybe. We’d never heard of cyber risk! And reputational risk didn’t feature much—corporate social responsibility (CSR) wasn’t really on the agenda, for instance. Political risks in far-off countries probably didn’t feature much for many firms either, because business just wasn’t as global as it is now. So, I think the breadth of different risks that we have to consider has just increased so much, and that’s one reason why it has gone up the executive board agenda so strongly. I guess risk management thinking has also expanded into services businesses too, including firms that probably didn’t think much about it at all 30 years ago. But now these issues around, for instance, reputational risk or cyber risk can apply to any firm, services or manufacturing company—and, indeed, even government organizations too.   

What do you think is the most valuable thing that procurement and supply chain leaders can learn from each other when it comes to managing supply chain risk? 

As a mathematician by training, I’m fascinated by issues around how we can make risk management more analytical. How do you assess risk and put probabilities and financial values against them? How do you quantify and measure the benefits of risk management mitigation? There’s a bunch of potential learning there, and more that needs to be done, I suspect. Then there are the issues around how you influence your internal stakeholders, starting from getting the right strategic profile for supply chain risk management internally, to how you work with business budget holders and owners to get the right operational input from them. Like many procurement issues, the internal challenges can be just as great as the external. Finally, there is the question of how you can best use technology to help manage risk—that’s another area where I’m sure there will be some good knowledge exchange in Hamburg (and at the Boston event as well)!  

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