Shuchita Singh, Senior Director, Enterprise Strategies, AbbVie

In this three part series, Atul Vashistha, Chairman, Neo Group speaks to Shuchita Singh, Senior Director, Enterprise Strategies at AbbVie.
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Expert Wisdom- Shuchita Singh on priorities, challenges and preparedness

Career Advice- Shuchita Singh, Sr Director, Enterprise Strategies at AbbVie

Atul:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to an episode of sourcing.guru. I’m delighted to have Shuchita Singh, who leads the Outsourcing Center of Excellence at AbbVie to this episode. Hi, Shuchita.
Shuchita Singh:
Hi, Atul.
Atul:
Shuchita, let’s start by telling the audience a little bit about your role today and the domain that it serves.
Shuchita Singh:
Sure. Like you said, I lead the Outsourcing Center of Excellence at AbbVie. Been here for about seven years, since AbbVie was founded from Abbott. It’s been an exciting journey. I started off as a governance lead, just looking at starting up the function, setting out what governance to put around outsourcing engagements. And then from there, the journey began where, what to build and how to manage the suppliers, to where now. Today, I’m talking to my stakeholders and looking at their operating model, what are they trying to do with outsourcing, how would they like to leverage outsourcing, should they leverage outsourcing or not, just doing it right. I think that’s the focus that I have. I’m so proud of my team because we have a excellent, amazing, fun group to work with. So it becomes very joyous to come to work every day. And then just the stakeholders and suppliers that we work with is what I do today at AbbVie.
Shuchita Singh:
But then going back into my career, I never thought I would be at this point. I started off as an engineer and into IT, really did a lot of… No, I went into development of applications and then coding and production support. And from there, I got tapped into doing Process Consulting, which was very interesting for me because somehow I have the knack of looking at everything from a process standpoint, and then figuring out, look at the big picture, look at the process and then build out what needs to be improved and simplified. So I enjoyed doing that for a few years. Miraculously, somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Well, you will be a good fit to join a group, called Outsourcing.” This was back at Northern Trust, and honestly, I had no idea what the job would entail, what it was. And I was like, “I don’t know why you would hire me.” So I kept saying no, because I thought I was not the right fit.
Shuchita Singh:
But I think what had happened was there was an interaction in my previous place where I was working as a Project Manager and I was working with a supplier, that was not my own company that I was presenting. And there was some issue that I had to navigate with the client, with the supplier and maintain the integrity [inaudible 00:02:18]. So when I did that, I think that was observed by this leader who felt, “She is the right fit for a job where you have to constantly interact with suppliers and be very non-biased.” And how do you speak truth to power, which is very important for a job like this? Somebody saw the potential in me better than I saw it in me, and I was grateful that I was hired.
Shuchita Singh:
I learned the job, on the job. And then from there, joined AbbVie because it was the best opportunity to hold the foundation and then looked at… Well, now take that foundation, expand it, but also get to build a function from ground zero. That was really the call that I have at AbbVie, and since then, it’s been the best journey that I’ve had in my career.
Atul:
Shuchita, I’ve known you since your days at Northern Trust…
Shuchita Singh:
Yes.
Atul:
And I know your team well at AbbVie, and your stakeholders. And I think you are a shining example of how you build trust with your stakeholders and at the same time, motivate a team that aspires to the same set of goals and principles while delivering value to the company. Kudos to you.
Shuchita Singh:
Thank you so much. And yes, I’ve been very fortunate to have been surrounded with really smart and good people such as you. I know I’ve learned a lot from you and your team too, and in that journey, I thank you. Like you said, it’s so important to build that trust.
Atul:
So Shuchita let’s move to the second part where I know there’s a number of questions that often the audience wants me to ask and it starts with first let’s talk about what are your top priorities when you think about the next six months, the next 12 months?
Shuchita:
Number one, at this point with the pandemic and how it has changed the equation for everyone. Number one priority for me is the well-being of my team and the people I work with, the supplier personnel everywhere, I work with about 5,000 odd supplier personnel that come into and provide services, even though they don’t know me and I don’t see them. And I don’t know everybody’s name through my network and through the leaders there, I’m very, very in tune with how they are doing. The pandemic has just changed how and what we thought was normal and how we are responding to it. And I think as a leader, I have to be very in line with what my team is feeling so that I am not an additional stress on them. So that’s my number one priority. And of course, we’ve got a good culture and I want to keep maintaining that culture, but how do I do it in a sensitive way? So that’s my number one priority.
Shuchita:
Second, again, going back to the gift of COVID, which is now everybody is working from everywhere and there is the risk element that comes in that I have to be in front of because we have seen more cyber attacks and not on an [inaudible 00:01:18], but just in general, we are hearing so much about it, how is ahead of the risk? We were fortunate that we were ahead of the risk last year when it actually started and we were prepared, but how do I keep that going? So just the risk element and then business. I mean, how do I keep my business moving? The business continuity is essential, but the talent shortage in the market, how do I get the best and attract the best and retain, not just for myself, but for the suppliers to that as coming into the [IB 00:01:49] network.
Atul:
Now, that’s really helpful. I think you made some points about, you need a rising level of compassion in times like this. And as you’re thinking about stakeholders, your suppliers are equally your stakeholders. And I’ll ask you a question about that later. So Shuchita you just talked about how one thing has become really clear is that the business environment is changing very rapidly at times. COVID is just one example of that. And there’s other supply chain disruptions. How are you and your teams keeping ahead? What kind of practices or solutions do you have in place to make sure you stay out of constant changes in the business environment?
Shuchita:
Right. So it seems odd that I would say, “Oh, well, we were prepared last year”, because nobody was prepared. But I have to say that, into some degree we were prepared. And that goes back to the fact that I think about three years ago, I decided that for our group, since risk is so important, I invested in having a director run risk management program, right. I have a risk management function. With all that function was doing, we had the feeds coming in. We have… Of course the supply was and feeds coming in. We have other feeds coming in that tells us what’s happening in globally, in a location, but with that supplier. And so keeping ahead of that, something very simple, right? We had all the… We have 4 to 5,000 [inaudible 00:03:07] people that I talked about.
Shuchita:
We know where they are, we know what they’re, who they are. We have that list. So when it happened, we could immediately rally around and said, “Okay, here are the people we first need to make sure that everybody has been contacted, they’re fine.” Now, what should we do with the supply chain? Because we knew that laptops may be a challenge and they may be having desktops at work. So how do we make sure that is taken care of, just being ahead of that a little bit is most critical. And I feel like if I had not invested in that function, we would have had disruption. We had [inaudible 00:03:41] suffered and we just like switched to working remote secure way. Right. So we…
Atul:
Perfect example of a great ROI.
Shuchita:
Right. Absolutely. And I mean, sometimes people pull back from spending a little bit on that function or that intelligence that you should have, but if you don’t, I mean, who knew that pandemic would happen? Who knew? Right.
Atul:
Shuchitha, let me switch to another big investment that all of us are making suppliers by side, which is automation. So talk to us about how is automation benefiting are the challenges you face as you scale up automation in your programs.
Shuchita:
Two ways, plus internally from my function. If I just look at what we do at outsourcing center of excellence, we are not only looking at what outsourcing strategies to put in place, but then I am in my team and I really call it the bread and butter of my function is we keep the governance of those contracts and the terms for the duration. So that’s like five years, seven year contracts. We make sure that that contract stays alive because yeah, we spend, I mean, I’ve seen so many companies, right? Like you spend all the time writing up the best contract and the best deal. And then you put it on a box and you forget. So we have automated all of that. So today at, or not, if there is a deliverable that on an obligation that’s in the contract, my team gets the alert like, “Hey, it’s time” or the supplier gets the alert.
Shuchita:
So having an automated governance is what I have to rely on. I don’t want to have my team do a lot of transactions and try to also be upstreams talking to my stakeholders. It’s not a very feasible model, right? So rely [inaudible 00:05:30] on automation there. Like I said, we need to know all the feeds that has to come in, right. Market intelligence or risk monitoring that has to come through my automated system. So altering of contracts is something that I’m curious and keen on. And I want to try that because I think today every time that there’s a contract written up and we want to sign it, we have to read through the whole thing to make sure that we got it down and the red lines are there. If there was a way to just call out the variances from my standard, it’ll be so much easier, right?
Atul:
Shuchita I was just going to say, I actually like the way you’re thinking, because you’re not just saying that, “Hey, we’re automating our manual processes for our business functions or IT”, but you’re all saying is that there’s other parts of how you actually run and govern the whole sourcing function, that there are opportunities right there that you’re taking advantage of.
Shuchita:
Yes, absolutely. It’s been in the working for a long time. And now I think we have reached a good stable point that today I have a heat map of all the suppliers and where we might have had a service level miss for which month for which [inaudible 00:06:34], right? Like being able to drill that down. And again, it’s not for punitive reasons, but how do I make that service level that they’re missing? Let’s say there is constantly a miss. There is something else that is going on that we need to look at and so being able to do that, like I want my team to focus on the root cause analysis and fixing the problem versus just saying, “Oh yeah, you missed it again.” And automation helps you with that, right. And then just going beyond that for my stakeholders, like we have automation plays an important role in how my outsourcing suppliers brings that to my stakeholder.
Shuchita:
If I look at, for example, adverse events are any volumes are going up with the social media being so active. If the volumes are going up, we need to be ready to handle those calls coming in. And how do you be ready if you don’t have automation to some degree. More and more I’m expecting my suppliers to bring in that automation layer along with their outsourcing, so that it is a combination where you can handle the volume, you can handle the transactions and at the same time, do a little bit more value added service.
Atul:
The movement of ESG corporate social responsibility, as you think about the industry, as you think about supplier base, what would you want to share with the audience regarding that?
Shuchita:
That’s an very interesting question. And one that I’ve kind of very passionate about, especially when I talk to my suppliers and we are all looking at it as far as [inaudible 00:08:01] has on, we are very focused on and it’s all on the press, on our focus for equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and then the corporate social responsibility that comes from sustainability and what we’re doing with our plans. That aside, when I just look at bringing it to my scope and where I have the most influence is working with the suppliers. And what I see quite often that there’s only one set of people that I get to meet every single time. And so I question them. I’m like, “Okay, so what are you doing?” Let’s say, “You’re bringing new client account team. Why don’t I see more diversity?” And I think that is a very fair question to ask them.
Shuchita:
And what was really surprising [inaudible 00:08:40] was when I started off, like, okay, I don’t know if they will be okay with this, because this is really up to them on how they want to run their business, blah, blah, blah. When I started talking to them, they came right in and today I have so many demands like they want me to come to their forums, talk about it. They are looking for more leaders who can help them move the needle. And so like I said, I’m really passionately involved in that space.
Atul:
Again, perfect example, the way you think about it, which is, it’s not just simply expecting it from them, but it’s also the role that you are starting to play to support those efforts. So Shuchita very clearly suppliers play important role in your ecosystem. Tell us a little bit about what is it that the best ones do well for you and what separates them from the others that are maybe not such great partners for you?
Shuchita:
Just two words, leaning in. The best suppliers know how and when to lean-in. Most of the companies that we work with are pretty large companies and corporations. They’re not very small. And so I understand if I’m talking to someone on the supplier side, that individual within that company may be very, very senior and they’re pretty senior and they may not always be willing to listen and lean in and say, “Okay, what is it that you are really trying to achieve here?” I think that good suppliers do that. They listen, it goes back to again, what I like to do which is keep the contract, do the contract well, negotiate with me when you’re doing it, do it well. So you have got what you need. But then once you do that, let’s not mistake that for the relationship. Let’s not pull out the contract every time, let’s not pull out the relationship in place of the contracts. I think the good suppliers, again, working with my function, they have to know how to keep their business and account very clean. And at the same time, be able to have that very healthy relationship. I think the balance of that, regardless to say, no delivery goes a long way. And If I don’t…
Atul:
That’s table stakes.
Shuchita:
Exactly, Right. And I say, I always tell them that if I don’t get a call from my stakeholder, that means you’re doing well. Because when they call me, I know you’re not doing well and I need to step in. And I think again, good suppliers listen and lean in.
Atul:
Very clearly, you mentioned earlier about talent. Talk to us about how are you ensuring or how should others ensure that you retain your best talent and you attract great talent in a market potentially where in many, many roles demand far exceeds the supply.
Shuchita:
That’s a very tough one [inaudible 00:11:15]. It’s changing so rapidly and, but I think your question was, how am I doing it? Or what am I seeing? Last year when we had the pandemic hit, just before that we had talked about what will be our priority for 2021 or 2020, sorry. And one of the priorities was, I wanted to set up a culture committee and it was going to be a committee, with metrics, with pillars, the pillars were learning and development, our social responsibility and how we give back to the community, fun events, because that we feel like we always lose out on and the team was like, we need to have the fun. So those three, and then of course there’s communication. And our focus again going, we changed a little bit to include employer equity and diverse inclusion in there.
Shuchita:
So with that, what I have observed, we could actually not just retain, but I think retain is one part, but really attract more diverse groups of people who felt that this is a place I want to be because I’m getting a growth opportunity. I’m getting a learning opportunity. I’m not holding back. I don’t like to hold back people. If they want to go, I’m proud to have them go as much as it hurts, right. But how do you enable people to become the next set of leaders? And if you can do that in your function knowing that you may lose them, I think is for me, that is the model that works. And what has consistently seen, it has to be a fun place. You want to be able to come to work and feel like I want to be here. I feel energized. That said the market today is just very hard to even get a good [inaudible 00:12:55]. I think I’m hoping it’ll settle down in the next few months or a year, well, we have to see.
Atul:
The way you built your team, I know your team is a very attractive place to work. So Shuchita let’s move to kind of our third part of this series. And that’s really about your advice on career.
Atul:
Shuchita let’s move to our third part of this series, and that’s really about your advice on careers. This is about young professionals that want to make a career in Sourcing. First of all, let’s talk about when you think about the role of Sourcing and as young professionals are thinking about it, where do you think it’s headed that they could have a long career in it? And then I’m going to talk to you about what resources do you use to make yourself a better leader everyday?
Shuchita:
Where it is headed.. For me in Sourcing, I believe that sourcing is just another management principle and a way of… It is no different than other management principles. If you can do project management, program management, and I take our strategy, if you’re good with that you could be good on sourcing. Number one, just don’t think sourcing equals contracting. That’s not the case, right? And just debunking that myth is very critical and I think more sourcing leaders should be talking about that.
Shuchita:
Take that. My foundation again is engineering. My foundation was not in supply chain. I have not gone into, I’ve not studied procurement, but I can read. And the way I started off and when I had to, like my first challenge with the contract was on my own. It’s a contract, but it is reading comprehension and then applying the basics and the principles.
Shuchita:
You have the right foundation and the right mindset you can do well with sourcing to where do you go from it? I think again, to me, it is the journey I’ve been in this for about 10 years now, two different companies, very different learning. My journey has expanded from just being into IT sourcing, but not interest to here where I have, I can, I can talk facilities outsourcing. I can talk about, HR payroll, finance, Shared services, or IT, of course, infrastructure. I did not know what infrastructure outsourcing would look like but I have had the opportunity to learn R and D we have in a pharmacovigilance work.
Shuchita:
The crop is not always upwards. There is cross that comes from just learning and growing in breadth. And I think that is where I find it for me again and from what I see with the team, we find that to be more enriching because everyday I come in I’m learning something new. And like I said, it is a foundation. There are many transferable skills that you can take from sourcing to a different part of the organization and still be able to run those functions.
Atul:
I think you talked about it before, you’ve actually engaged with the stakeholders, whether it’s IT, or like you said, pharmacovigilance, to be part of their teams to learn from them so that you can be a trusted advisor to them and helping them source I’ve definitely observed you do that. Are there other resources you rely on to make yourself a better leader?
Shuchita:
Absolutely. Like I said, you have to be able to see the big picture, always know the business. Know that contract does not drive business, business drives contract and you have to be able to write something and deliver something from a sourcing standpoint for where the business is headed.
Shuchita:
Every single time that I’m working on. And let’s say we are doing an RFP, the stakeholder gives a timeline, that is a natural tendency for sourcing the visuals to go like, “oh, but that timeline is unreasonable. Cannot do it”. I always say, “we can do it. Why do you need it by then?” Because when you don’t ask those questions and you don’t understand what is business trying to drive towards, you write up a great deal but what good is the deal if you are not able to if my, at the end of the day, the patients should receive the medicine on time and everything that we do, we may be at the end of the link, but we are part of that link into how do you make sure that you’re seeing the big picture you’re building towards that enabling business.
Shuchita:
I would definitely say that’s other resource which you have to go out and keep reading and learning. Don’t go in front of your business’ stakeholders without knowing their business. And I think you and I have chatted about that and you’ve given me that advice too. I definitely keep that advice very close and every single interaction.
Shuchita:
I’ve also got a market intelligence function. So we do a lot more feeds that comes in constantly we’re reading and taking that reading from the market that cannot be substituted by just saying, “okay, I’ve got my five contracts and I know what to do here” that cannot be substituted. And what you cannot substitute is just the power of relationships across you talk to industry advisors, people who know the space, other similar leaders in different companies, talking to them, knowing how, what they are doing, everybody is dead or share or the right protocols and doing that, I think keeps me on a little shy.
Atul:
Right, I think that’s great advice. You, as you said, it’s not just about learning and reading. It’s also about the relationships that you build through this process that becomes part of your learning.
Atul:
So Jenna, thank you so much for making time for us and joining us on this, sourcing that GURU episode. Thanks again.
Shuchita:
Thank you, Axel always good to talk to you.

In This Episode

Shuchita Singh

Sr Director, Enterprise Strategies

As an outsourcing professional, Shuchita Singh is responsible for managing key outsourcing Service Provider relationships at Northern Trust to deliver high quality and value-adding IT services, aligned to corporate outsourcing strategy. With over 14 years of experience, both as a service provider and client, she is able to provide consulting to internal partners as well as collaborate effectively with the service providers. Shuchita has experience in defining and implementing offshoring strategy, leading several multi-million dollar RFPs (IT and Business Process), onboarding new service providers and managing performance & risk with current providers. She is often engaged on special projects for her expertise, creative ideas, attention to details and ability to multi-task efficiently.
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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