Taking inspiration from "Corner Office: conversations about leadership and management" from the New York Times and Inc. Magazine's "The Way I Work", we look forward to featuring Procurement and Supply Chain leaders on this blog series. 

I’m excited to feature Jack Miles, a Procurement leader par excellence who has developed and executed business strategies in numerous organizations with different cultures, management structures and approaches. I had the pleasure of hosting Jack at DocuSign’s Procurement Advisory Council in March 2014. It was a real treat to hear Jack describe the arc of his career and his thoughts on Procurement.

Vital Stats

Location: Winter Park FL and New York, NY

Current Role: Semi-Retired, Managing Partner MainSpring Advisors

Current mobile devices:  Apple 5S and making the “painful” but overdue move to Mac

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  Dashlane and Evernote

What are you currently reading?  Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

Q: Jack, you have such an extensive background in Procurement roles spanning many different industries. Could you please share your story – how you got interested in Procurement and how things unfolded for you?

A: I grew up in Northern New Jersey and went to prep school in Connecticut. I joined the US Navy right out of high school, was in Naval Aviation which turned out to be a great experience. After the Navy, I graduated with a BS in Business and Psychology and in 1979 joined Prentice Hall which had an excellent management development program. Within a year at Prentice Hall, I was asked by the VP of Purchasing to join his team.  My boldness gave me some interesting exposure and the head of the Business and Professional Book group became my mentor and I also helped him on specific projects including acquisitions and post-merger integration. I always kept a Procurement eye on things and made sure we were spending money wisely but I always aligned with the needs of the business which is what business leadership cares about.

In 1995 came an international opportunity in the CPO role at CIBC in Toronto. The role was created following McKinsey’s recommendation to reduce expense ratio and Procurement was a big focus. I had responsibility for operations in North America, EMEA and UK and Asia. We had some interesting adventures in grocery store banking until the dot com bust dried up investment and we shut down operations.

In 2002 I left CIBC and setup my own consulting firm – Winter Park Consulting. The firm did most of its work in North America focusing on corporate services functions including procurement.  As the business climate began to improve so did the number of calls on roles and I was recruited by AIG as CPO to execute a turnaround. That was followed by a stint at CA after which I semi-retired returning to central Florida to live and work.  I began working with early stage and star up firms predominantly through the University of Central Florida Technology incubator. In the early part of 2008, I was recruited by the former CIO at CIBC who had come out of retirement to take the CIO role at CIGNA. He was a great believer in the value of procurement and a great leader so I joined his team to address IT procurement. About six months after joining CIGNA, all Procurement was moved under me.

I left that role in December 2010 and just before that began being vetted for a role in Governor Elect Rick Scott’s administration. On January 21st 2011, Governor Scott appointed me Secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services. It was a very troubled and diverse agency, including Human Resources, Real Estate and Facilities, Telecommunications, Procurement, Fleet Management, Private Prison Management and more.  It had a direct and functional budget representing about 17% of the state’s $70 billion dollar budget.  The mandate was to turn around the agency and restore legislative confidence, implement good processes, and restore funding from the legislature.  

Now I am semi-retired and serve on the advisory board of several companies – some are leaders in their industry and others are up and comers. I take my role at these companies very seriously. I really enjoy mentoring and assisting startups to fine tune their business models.

Q: What is your leadership philosophy?

A: I’ve always been a bit of a rebel – not accepting the status quo. I like to break away, I’m not as interested in what others are doing, but looking for the next big thing; using a Canadian phrase: skate to where the puck is going to be. My fundamental belief is that everything can be done better and faster than it is being done today. That’s the curious side of me. I also have a knack of putting together teams who can accomplish big things.  

Q: What career advice do you give to aspiring Procurement leaders?

A: What I have learned is that organizations go through change and as a leader you must be prepared to lead that change, take appropriate risks and support your team through those changes, especially when they are advancing it.  As an example of what I mean by supporting the team, if you have ever watched a rodeo, when a rider gets in trouble clowns come out to distract the bronco to give the rider some time to recover. A leader has to be able to play the role of the clown for their team.  Mistakes happen and when they do the leader needs to run the interference to allow them to recover, learn and move on. My strategy is to hire skilled and competent people and then to support them as they do their jobs. I also like to hire diverse teams – diversity of thought and gender diversity are the best weapons in solving challenging problems.  

Q: How has Procurement as a function evolved over the years?

A: There are a handful of Procurement heads that are doing a good job, but generally speaking, the Procurement profession remains in sad shape. I am amazed to find large Procurement departments with 15-20% spend under management. Frankly, I wonder how these procurement leaders keep their jobs. Many C-Suite executives don’t hold Procurement in high regard. What they want to know is: How is procurement enabling business? Many CFOs are generally skeptical of Procurement partially because they seldom see the “savings” many CPOs tout in the company’s financials. The users’ experience is that Procurement is more of an “enforcer” than an enabler; not helping the business do business.  Procurement has earned a very mixed reputation and mostly because of their actions and style of play. They are seen as focusing on process and being bureaucratic and not helpful. The reality is to be part of an accepted player in the C-Suite you need to deliver like a C-Suite leader.

Procurement must focus on enabling business, not just on cost savings. They must work with business to get deals done. Modern digital technology is a contributor in allowing Procurement to get out of the transaction business. Procurement has to be at the core of why and how decisions are made. Instead of focusing mostly on price negotiations, they should also tackle consumption and demand; it is not just about the price we pay but the products and amount firms consume.  I like the diet analogy; you can get all the food at the right price but if you consume too much of the wrong stuff it becomes unhealthy; there are clearly opportunities for firms to become healthier.

Q: What is the one thing a Procurement organization must excel at?

Procurement should be all about the business, by enabling and advancing the business and focusing more on “sell versus tell”.  Avoid creating business needs and requirements in a vacuum, throwing them over the wall to a supplier who has more questions than answers and doing all that under a cone of silence and expect the best value; it won’t happen. Procurement must know the market, suppliers, and cost structure. They need to know the business they are procuring and collaborate with suppliers on how to best meet those requirements, so if you’re working with Marketing, you must know how marketing and advertising firms function and make money. Procurement must collaborate with business and suppliers every step of the way; and as mentioned earlier, they should be doing a bit more selling and a lot less telling..

In many instances, Procurement is not aware of business or corporate strategy and as a result they are challenged to plan ahead. My advice is to engage way ahead of time. Get a seat at the table at the business planning stage but you have to earn the right to engage early. Also keep in mind you don’t need to be involved in everything. Target certain, critical opportunities, prioritize, execute well and deliver results.  Get an up-front understanding of the market place and the players, and limit analysis to two or three suppliers reducing complexity and not wasting suppliers’ time. Get to know the suppliers. Have the hard conversations with the suppliers before awarding business. When it comes to execution, make sure you have the supplier’s A-team for account management.  

Q: How do you hire?

A: I place a lot more weight on skills, competencies, attributes and collaboration and influence skills than I do on degrees and certifications. The degrees and certifications tell me little about what an individual can do and how they work with others.  I’m also interested in what you have a passion for, do you have what it takes to do a deal? Can you work well, collaborate and influence others? Are you curious? Do you understand people, suppliers, marketplace, and industries? Talented people grow into the role and help stakeholders land where they need to land.

Q: What advice would you give to a recent college graduate?

A: Align with leaders in the organization – learn industries, and the value proposition of their business. Find good suppliers and align with them. Get Exposure. Make things work better. Deliver business value and don’t underestimate the value of good mentoring!

Thank you Jack, for sharing your journey and you passion for Procurement! To learn more about digital solutions for Procurement, click here. Got a burning question for Jack? Tweet away @DocuSign or drop your thoughts in the comments below. 

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About Jack P. Miles

Jack Miles is a business operations leader with over 30 years experience successfully transforming corporate services, administration and sourcing organizations in leading North American firms and Government.

Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed Jack as the Secretary of the Department of Management Services (DMS) and he served in that role until April of 2012. DMS is a large and diverse state agency with an annual direct operating budget of $2.5 billion and a functional budget of over $9.5 billion, about 14% of the States $70.0 billion annual budget.   Functions within DMS include Real Estate, Facilities, Procurement and My Florida Marketplace, Human Resource Policy and HP Technology, Employee Benefits, Telecommunications including Voice, Data, Emergency 911, Mobile, Law Enforcement Interoperability and Broadband, Retirement Services, Fleet and Vehicle Services, Private Prison Monitoring and Surplus Equipment. DMS also facilitates State Term Contracts; aggregating state wide public sector spend which towns, counties, municipalities and other eligible users across Florida are able to utilize. 

Prior to his appointment Jack held senior sourcing executive, shared services and Chief Procurement Officer roles at leading North American firms including CIGNA, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), American International Group (AIG), Computer Associates (CA), Travelers, Ames Department Stores and Prentice-Hall.

Jack is a leader in architecting, resourcing and executing sustainable improvement, accountability, management and process innovation, solving highly complex business, technology and transformation challenges for firms ranging from early stage start up to large-cap global corporate companies.

Jack’s belief in adopting tools, technology and implementing measurement is legendary.  Under his leadership CIBC was an early adopter of eProcurement to simplify the provisioning of supplies and services providing improved spend visibility, demand management and improving the ‘procure to pay’ cycle.  Jack was also engaged in major transformation initiatives at AIG, CA, and developing a vision and strategy to take a ten year old eProcurement implementation for the State of Florida to the next level.

He serves on the Advisory Council of DocuSign Inc., MDT Holdings LLC, PeopleTicker Inc., Clear Village, Inc. and Geocove, Inc., the Visionaries Council of Coupa Software Inc. and is a Mentor at Starter Studio in Orlando FL. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of Florida TaxWatch and is a member of the TaxWatch Center for Government Efficiency.

Jack holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Psychology from Ramapo College of New Jersey. He has been a frequent speaker at industry events and conferences, and a citizen of the United States and Canada. Jack and his spouse Nancy reside in Winter Park Florida.

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