Dawn Tiura, CEO, Sourcing Industry Group

In this three part series, Atul Vashistha, Chairman, Neo Group speaks to Dawn Tiura, CEO, Sourcing Industry Group. Dawn tells us about SIG- the world’s largest association in Procurement and Outsourcing. They focus on education and elevation of the office of the CPO. Dawn talks about identifying the right areas for automation as well as human impact of sourcing. She emphasizes how the pandemic magnified third-party risk.
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Expert Wisdom- Dawn Tiura on future readiness and priorities in sourcing

Career Advice- Dawn Tiura on curiosity and embracing diversity for leaders

Atul:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to an episode of Sourcing.guru. I’m really excited today to introduce to you an industry expert, somebody who’s made major contributions to the overall sourcing and procurement industry, Dawn Tiura. Dawn is the CEO of Sourcing Industry Group, also known as SIG. Dawn, welcome.
Dawn Tiura:
Thank you. So glad to be here with you today, Otto.
Atul:
Tell us a little bit about SIG and also tell us a little bit about, as CEO, what do you focus on?
Dawn Tiura:
So, SIG is actually going into its 30th year. I wasn’t there at the very beginning, but it’s a 30-year-old association, but we are the world’s largest association representing people in the procurement and the outsourcing space. So anything to do with procurement sourcing and outsourcing, that is our sweet spot. We represent probably 300 of the [inaudible 00:00:49] 500, probably 500 of the Global one thousand companies and our focus is constantly on the education and elevation of the office of the CPO.
Atul:
And Dawn, having participated myself, you absolutely are accomplishing that mission, so thank you, as an industry professional, from that perspective.
Dawn Tiura:
Thank you.
Atul:
So Dawn, one thing I’ve learned in my almost three decade career in sourcing and outsourcing and risk management is, that’s not really where people start out. So talk to us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to this CEO role.
Dawn Tiura:
Yeah so mine was like most people that have been in it for a long time, it was one of those odd paths that got me there. I’m trained as a CPA, I’m a licensed CPA. I have a Master’s in international taxation and I had a CPA firm in Palo Alto, California for years and one of my clients was a consulting firm that was just entering into the sourcing arena and they hired us to come in and build a cost model because they said, “We know we’re driving incredible benefits, but we can’t show where they are.”
Dawn Tiura:
So we did one of the very first total cost of ownership cost models. It was for a hospital organization called Kaiser Permanente from the West Coast and I fell in love with sourcing. I thought, “This is so neat.” So I sold my CPA firm, I went to work for this consulting firm for about three years. I realized I make a really lousy employee, so I started my own consulting firm.
Dawn Tiura:
So I started Denali Consulting in 1996. Then, I started to speak at the SIG Summits and I said to the gentleman who was running it, “One day I would love to grow up and be you.” and he said, “What does that mean?” And I said, “You know, you get to talk about sourcing morning, afternoon and night.” Five years later, he literally called me up and said, “Are you ready to grow up and be me?” And so I had an opportunity then to take over SIG and it’s been a dream come true. I sold my consulting firm and I never looked back. And so that was in 2007. So I fell into sourcing like a lot of us have, but I stayed because I love it.
Atul:
What a great story from CPA to consulting to now running a very successful association. Thank you for that, Dawn.
Dawn Tiura:
Thank you.

Atul:
Dawn, let’s talk about some of the trends that we are seeing and how that’s impacting you and your members. We’re seeing very sudden quick changes in business environment. COVID is an example of that. How do you, your organization, and then what you’re seeing members, how are people keeping up and ensuring that their organization stay successful among these rapid changes?
Dawn:
I think our mission is to make CPO slightly uncomfortable by pushing the future toward them more quickly than they want to grasp it. But human beings need to hear things for a little while before it becomes their truth. They need to start experiencing things. I think our rule is to find what the next trends are, and to make sure that we’re bringing them as quickly and as possible in front of these folks, and making sure that they’re aware of it.
Dawn:
Back in early days of AI, the last thing you want someone to do is say, what does AI stand for? Or their CFO say to them, are you using any AI? And they have no idea what it is. We’re always trying to stay ahead of that curve. We’re always looking for where the next trends will be, and trying to bring them fast-forward to our members, so that they get comfortable more quickly than other people would be with all the changes.
Dawn:
Then you know, you’re such a technologist yourself. Technology is changing so rapidly that we’re trying to make people comfortable. You are drinking from a fire hose, and there is no shutoff valve. It’s going to keep continuing. You have to either follow faster, drink faster, but you’ve got to accept that fire hose is there. So now how do you adapt in this world where change is coming at you so continuously? That’s really what we focus on as an association, and I think that’s really our obligation to everybody.
Atul:
I think that’s great advice which is, be better prepared, be more knowledgeable so you can handle that change. Dawn, you just talked about technology and the speed of technology. Let’s talk about automation.
Atul:
Automation is probably one of the significant impact that we have seen in the last two to five years on our industry. Both in terms of efficiency opportunity, but also challenges. Talk to us about what you are seeing, what your members are experiencing when it comes to adopting automation, the benefits, but also some of the challenges that you see.
Dawn:
We actually … even within SIG, and SIG university, which is our education arm of our company. We offer a certification on intelligent automation, because it is so important for people to identify, not everything needs to be automated, not everything should be automated. But the one thing that’s very true in this industry and in most industries is that smart people don’t want to do dumb work. They don’t want to do boring, mundane, repetitive tasks that can be automated. And you’re going to lose good people. If you’re not challenging them, taking a step back, the wages are going up. People in sourcing are being paid what they deserve. Why would you pay someone these incredible wages and then ask them to tick boxes, and check things that can be done automatically?
Dawn:
We really focus on automation to get rid of the mundane, repetitive tasks, and we want to use intelligent automation when you need intelligent automation. Some things don’t need an intelligent bot. Some things just need to be automated. Some need IA built into it. How do you find those processes? And that’s what we try and teach people, is how do you identify what should be automated, what needs a smart bot, what needs just an automation bot? And how do you do that? Then lead the people to do either the exception clearing that happens because something is not going to fit within the automation, and then challenge them to use their brains and really add value to the organization. That’s really why I’m passionate about automation. I just think it’s necessary if you’re going to keep good people.
Atul:
I see you and your organization supporting your members by ensuring there’s events, so they get to hear from others. There’s of course, this education, as you’ve talked about SIG university, that’s also enabling that.
Dawn:
Yeah. I think it’s just incredibly important. The technology is going to get to continue to change. And I think the early days when people first adapted their first procure to pay, or source to pay system, they thought, that’s it. We’re done. But nobody, and I’ll say this right to their faces, nobody has an end-to-end suite that is best in class in every single aspect. There are always niche areas that can be improved. That’s where it’s so exciting to see all these players coming about. They’re filling the gaps that most people didn’t even recognize that they had, and they’re making it better than just what the suite would offer originally. So I’m really excited by the amount of technology and it’s just growing by leaps and bounds.
Atul:
Dawn, one of the other trends we’re seeing, and I see this from your posts. You’re absolutely involved in diversity equity inclusion, and this whole concept of impact sourcing corporate social responsibility related to that. Talk to us a little bit about what role is SIG playing and how are you also encouraging your members around that topic?
Dawn:
One of the things that we do well, and something that I really want to emphasize is that, we should feel proud of our sourcing initiatives. I’ll make a broad statement. We literally can change the world and people go, what? I’m buying things, like no, no, no. Where we source, who we outsource to, through our outsourcing initiatives and whether or not you think manufacturing outsourcing is good or bad, I’m not going to get into the politics of it. But we created a middle-class in China that did not exist before we outsource manufacturing to China.
Dawn:
What happens when you create a middle class? They have money to spend, they put it back into the economy and they tend to want Western goods. Now the exact same thing happened in India. When we started doing application development services, way back, that was the first outsourcing to India that the procurement was involved in. We have created a middle-class in India that didn’t exist before. And what happens again? There’s more money in the economy, and there’s more opportunities. It literally is changing people’s lives. We’re lifting people out of poverty. We’re creating the ability for people to work.
Dawn:
What sociologists have found is, if I have someone who has a PhD, let’s say in mathematics, there is no opportunity for them to fend for themselves and to make an income, and they’re in a country that might have a lot of uprising. They’re going to be in the streets, fighting for a better life. But as soon as we can give them an opportunity to make money, that’s where they prefer to be, is in their homes, working and using their brain to make money and support their families.
Dawn:
People don’t want to be out in the streets boring. That changes people’s lives. And people don’t understand that it might seem like it’s only one job, but if we change one life at a time, think of the magnitude of all of the spent. We’ve represent $17 trillion of US equivalent dollars through SIG. That can change lives. And so-
Atul:
Absolutely.
Dawn:
… I want people to realize that and be proud of that.
Atul:
Dawn, I think it’s a great reminder that as sourcing procurement professionals, we can actually make a very big human impact by paying attention to the sources of supply, and encouraging sources of supply that promote these principles.
Dawn:
Yeah. You look at the modern slavery and human trafficking. People say that doesn’t exist in the supply chain. Well, conflict minerals shows you that it does. That sweatshops shows you that it does. There wouldn’t be a company called Made in a Free World if we didn’t have to look for things like modern slavery. We can change lives, we can eradicate major social issues that exist in the world by working all together. We literally are changing the world. So I’m very proud of the work that sourcing professionals do.
Atul:
Dawn, as you think about your members, where do you plan to invest more?
Dawn:
Third party risk. Plain and simple. It was that volleyball that they’d say, that belongs to the risk organization. Now that belongs to the procurement. What I think the pandemic has shown everyone is first off, we have a have had superheroes in the procurement organizations that have saved the companies through the pandemic and the supply chain disruption.
Dawn:
But we’ve also realized that the risk is introduced first and foremost at the sourcing organization. It’s the suppliers that we choose. It’s the countries that we choose. The geopolitical unrest that we might walk into. All of the risk factors that one contract in the wrong place and through the speed of social media, and the speed in which people recognize and share it, we can wreck our reputation with one sourcing event. Where we used to try and throw it over to the risk people, it’s been thrown back. And I tell CPOs, it starts first and foremost, you own third party risk. Like it or not. So you’ve got to work that into every sourcing decision. It could be financial risks, it could be operational risk, it could be reputational risk. There are so many places that we can introduce risk, or mitigate a risk event.
Dawn:
Back to SIG university, that’s why we have a course on third-party risk management. Because it is absolutely so critical. That’s not going to change. The pandemic made our eyes go wide open. We realized that we did a good job understanding who our suppliers were. We did not have a good grasp of our suppliers, suppliers, suppliers. It was … so many people just don’t have that visibility and they’re realizing right now you need it, because if I diversify, and I have two sources of supply, and I think, all right, so one’s in Vietnam and one’s in China, I’m good. Well, the pandemic showed you that something could sweep across the world. And by the way, the company in Vietnam and the company in China were both buying from the same third party. So we really didn’t … we diversified the first step, we did not diversify the full supply chain. And that’s where the resiliency has to get built.
Atul:
Dawn, absolutely spot on. In fact, in banking, it’s the reason why they call procurement the first line of defense. It’s the first place where your risk management has to start.
Dawn:
Exactly.
Atul:
You bring up really good points about concentration risk and party risk. I actually love the fact that as you’re thinking about your members, that you’re talking about not just sourcing, outsourcing, but what is the inherent risk and how do you prevent it by starting from the very beginning and not after the fact.
Dawn:
Yeah. Then the other part of the tool that I think we have to pay attention to is that, you can’t be a climate denier and be in sourcing. Because we have risks introduced into our supply chains coming from climate issues. Whether you call it global warming, climate change, whatever, we have got to build sustainability because that’s a huge risk introduction that we’re not paying enough attention to right now.
Dawn:
I would say, third party risk is always going to be our mantra. But within that, one way to mitigate is through diversity, equity, and inclusion. And the other way is, that we have got to look at sustainability in our supply chains. Absolutely ground zero for people today. You’ve got to understand it. You can’t be a climate denier. You’ve got to follow the science and know that we have got to mitigate that risk in our supply chain.
Atul:
Dawn, thank you for re-enforcing that point. This whole ESG as such becoming an important criteria. I was on a call yesterday with a group of risk leaders, and they were talking about how ESG is now being turned into one of the qualifying areas in their procurement group, and also in their ongoing risk monitoring group.
Dawn:
Then you look at the millennials today are the younger generations. They don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t pay attention to environmental, social, and governance. That’s not where they want to work. It’s also a factor on for investors. They need to look at that because the longevity of the employee base and the dedication of the employee base is going to vary dramatically to someone who has really strong ESG scores to someone who does not. So, absolutely true.
Atul:
So Dawn, thank you for sharing your wisdom around these trend topics. What I want to do is move us next to advice for professionals.
Dawn:
If you want to be in sourcing today, you’ve got to have insatiable curiosity. It can be developed. I don’t think you have to be born with it. I don’t think I was really turned on to it until I was a little bit older, but you’ve got to have insatiable curiosity to read. You’ve got to be reading at least three to four newspapers per day. You’ve got to be subscribing to the right periodicals and reading. You’ve got to educate yourself. If you stop and say… It’s like the CPO who says I have all the technology I need, I’m good. No, if you haven’t looked lately, you have now fallen behind and if you are not educating yourself on a daily basis, you are falling behind. You’re going to miss trends, you’re going to miss socioeconomic impacts to your supply chain, geopolitical impacts to your supply chain, climate change impact your supply chain.
Dawn:
You are going to miss out. If you are not educating yourself. You never, ever can rest on what you know today, what you did yesterday, that is not going to be enough for the future. So, to be a sourcing professional today, insatiable curiosity, you’ve got to be educating yourself. If you get stuck, my advice is just take a step, just one small step, any direction, even backward, but sitting still and just spinning is never going to get you anywhere. So, take a step, start getting some momentum, and pretty soon you’re going to find that that curiosity that you’re trying to curate becomes insatiable.
Atul:
Well in fact, Dawn, I know a few years ago when you acquired Future of Sourcing and it’s one of your publications because that’s an effort of making sure the industry continues to be aware and educated about what’s changing and what new solutions are coming on board.
Dawn:
Exactly, I’m just passionate about that. We’ve always got to be looking forward and embracing what’s coming toward us.
Atul:
So Dawn, for my last question, tell us a little bit about you which is, how do you make yourself a better leader? What resources do you rely on to make yourself a better leader?
Dawn:
It starts with the people. I think learning that you can put the best contract in place, but if people don’t want to buy off of it because they don’t want to follow you as a leader, it means that you’re not going to make change. So, it starts with the people. You’ve got to be relatable, you’ve got to have empathy. I think the pandemic showed good leaders and bad leaders were separated. You’ve got to understand that without the people you’re never going to have success. Technology can’t do it all for you. You’ve got to have people. So, lead with your people, put them first and foremost in every decision that you make. And so for me, I’m constantly reading. I read book after book, I listen to podcasts, I go to webinars. I’m always trying to learn how I can connect better and what makes people tick.
Dawn:
We’re never going to fully understand the human psyche and we’re certainly not going to understand everybody and their depth, but I think being an empathetic leader has really taught me a lot. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of ways of thinking that are not me and that’s another reason why SIG we embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. Almost a third of our staff is African-American. We have a lot of female leaders. We want to make sure that we’re going out there, and when we get to the other, we come from all diverse backgrounds, and so we bring diverse thought. As a result, you learn so much. How boring would it be to sit around with people just like yourself day in and day out and just repeat the same things that you think and feel. For me, leadership means being open to learning, opening to listening. I think that is the most critical aspect there is, is the people.
Atul:
Dawn, thank you so much for sharing your time, your engagement, and your wisdom with us. To the audience, when you get a chance, please go to sig.org to learn more about both SIG, but also be able to leverage the resources that exist, so you can follow some of the principles that Dawn talked about. Dawn, thank you so much again.
Dawn:
Thank you, Atul. Always a pleasure to talk to you. You’re one of those brilliant people I always seek out.
Atul:
Thank you and same here, Dawn. I’m delighted to talk to you. Thank you.
Dawn:
Thank you.

In This Episode

Dawn Tiura

CEO

Sourcing Industry Group

Dawn is passionate about raising the executive presence of sourcing, procurement and outsourcing professionals. She does this by staying educated on the latest trends in the industry, working with some of the most innovative companies in the world and surrounding herself with the best team on earth. From her early days as a CPA, to consulting across industries, Dawn brings the knowledge necessary to heighten the awareness of the sourcing profession. Dawn’s expertise goes beyond consulting…she has hands-on experience leading hearings, testifying on behalf of client initiatives and serving as an expert witness about sourcing outcomes. Dawn ghost wrote one of the first published books on strategic sourcing, which has been translated into multiple languages. She is a frequently-requested, high-energy speaker at dozens of industry events every year.
Atul Vashistha is recognized globally as a leading expert on globalization, governance, and risk. He has authored three best-selling books: The Offshore Nation, Globalization Wisdom and Outsourcing Wisdom. Atul pioneered the global sourcing advisory space in 1999 when he founded Neo Group which collaborates with Global 2000 enterprises, empowering them to build new capabilities and generate rapid savings by leveraging global talent, analytics and automation. Neo Group offers Global Sourcing Advisory, Data Governance, and Risk Management services. Atul serves on the boards of the US Department of Defense Business Board (Vice Chair), IAOP, Shared Assessments, and Zemoga.

Atul Vashistha

Chairman

NeoGroup

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