"One on One: An Interview with Jill B. Bossi" By Mary Siegfried, Fall 2004, Vol. 40, No. 4, p. 2
Journal of Supply Chain Management Copyright © November 2004, by the Institute for Supply Management, Inc.
Interview by Mary Siegfried, writer for Inside Supply Management®
Jill B. Bossi, C.P.M., is a senior vice president in supply chain management for Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bossi began her supply management career in California at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios as a junior buyer and then worked for a number of entertainment companies such as Lorimar, Turner and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She moved from entertainment into telecommunications, working at AirTouch and Verizon Wireless as their director of strategic sourcing. Bossi then moved into financial services as vice president of strategic sourcing and supply for Experian North America before accepting her new role at Bank of America. She has been active in ISM for over 15 years, beginning on the board of NAPM—Los Angeles, Inc. She currently serves as a member of the board of the ISM Services Group and a member of the Editorial Review Board for Inside Supply Management® magazine.
The Journal of Supply Chain Management: What do you think is unique about the services industry supply chain?
Jill B. Bossi: There are many variations within the services industry and that is what makes it unique. What works in the hotel industry may not work in the financial services industry. In financial services, for example, what is most unique is the environment of laws and regulations in which supply management must work. That environment regulates everything we do. The same is true in the pharmaceutical industry where there are regulations around the way pharmaceuticals are produced and advertised. But that said, there are also many commonalities so that the process of procuring often is very similar across many different industries. We are all deciding what to buy, gathering and analyzing data, going out into the marketplace to find a solution, implementing control mechanisms to order products and services, and working with our customers to improve a situation. Another aspect of the services supply chain that I believe is unique is that the challenges are constantly changing. In manufacturing, many of the challenges are repetitive. But in the services industry, one year it may be a budget challenge, the next year it is a regulatory challenge.
The Journal: What are some of the specific challenges in the services supply chain?
Bossi: I think the biggest challenge faced by supply management is selling the value proposition. It is still a struggle for supply management in the services industry to convince our business partners that we bring value to the organization. The challenge is to convince our internal customers that by working together, we will bring value to the bottomline. In manufacturing, that is clearly understood because so much of the business is based on products. If a company is producing automobiles, the supply chain is there and working to make sure every element of that vehicle is at the optimum cost. In services, supply management is not there yet. Another challenge is that in most services industries, supply management does not have a mandate. Business units operate autonomously and as long as they are making their budget numbers, top management does not like to rock the boat.
The Journal: How does supply management sell its value to customers?
Bossi: First, supply management has to understand the customer's business, whether it's marketing, human resources, or quality and productivity. We also have to understand their particular business challenges so we can speak to those challenges in terms of the value proposition that supply management can offer. We have to be able to prove to them that we can help make their jobs easier or their budgets more viable.
The Journal: How do you go about doing that?
Bossi: It is all based on relationships and trust that you build from the ground up. You knock on doors and when you have small successes, you build on those successes until you've built a level of trust in your supply organization's competency and objectivity. Start by helping the business partner with something small. Tell them that by leveraging supply management, we can do the heavy lifting, allowing them to focus on their core competency. Supply managers have to make it clear to business partners that they still will be making decisions, but supply management will gather and analyze the data and negotiate the contract. Of course, the easiest way to sell value is if the senior management of the company gives supply management a mandate and tells the organization what needs to be done. In that case, doors get knocked open. However, even with a mandate, supply management has a limited amount of time to make a positive impact before those doors get slammed shut.
The Journal: What are some critical training issues for supply management in a services industry?
Bossi: There are a couple of different choices in training your employees in supply management. You can have a traditional group where you train and then assign employees by category or commodity. For example, one person is designated to be in charge of marketing and advertising. She is already well trained in supply management skills, but now it is incumbent on her to learn everything she can about marketing and advertising. That comes with working with that department and learning their language. I also encourage all of my employees to get associated not only with an organization like the Institute for Supply Management™ but also with a professional association for their particular business unit. Another approach is that you can bring in a marketing and advertising person, for example, who knows that discipline but knows nothing about supply management. Then you train them and teach them about strategic sourcing, contract negotiations and other skills needed to be a supply management professional. In most good supply management organizations, there will be a mix of these employees. Most successful departments are well integrated and cross-functional.
The Journal: What skills do you look for in hiring and recruiting in a services industry environment?
Bossi: I look for well-rounded business professionals. You can translate a good sense of business to a wide range of customer challenges. Good analytical skills and category-specific skills also are helpful. It's also important to find out what an employee is interested in, what they have a passion for, because that will come across to your internal customers. For supply management professionals in the services industry, a specific commodity expertise is less important than a good broad base of business expertise and a broad skill set that can be used for whatever challenges they face.