Q&A with John Jordan, Head of Strategy Planning at Sony

We sat down with John Jordan, Head of Strategy Planning at Sony to find out more about how procurement teams have been dealing with the pandemic.

How has COVID-19 changed your role and the demands on your team?

Quite considerably. All our customers are internal so we're focusing on different plans of how we can provide services to our internal customers. From a supplier point of view, we’re going to protect our suppliers, make sure they make it through. Sony is a large company, and we want to ensure that our critical strategic suppliers are still there post COVID-19. That's via very different leverages, so things like payment terms and other forms of support Sony can offer during this difficult time.

What measures has your company put in place to deal with that then and to deal with the crisis as a whole as well?

It's a moving beast, really. It's hard to stay ahead of that fast-moving environment because things change on a day-to-day basis. We measure daily how many times a supplier requests early payment. That's a very good measure of how stable the supplier is. We've got lots of technologies, which is great. We use Creditsafe and that helps us understand whether the supplier is going through financial difficulty or not when in the sourcing process. We’re starting to focus on planning of what happens post-COVID-19, rather than during because right now all we can currently do is support strategic suppliers to ensure continuality of the business. With regards to the future, we’re doing a lot of re-forecasting, because when we did our budget, we didn't build in COVID-19. It's more about planning what happens afterwards and when it happens afterwards.

Have you had to implement any new technologies or new solutions to deal with the pandemic?

Yes, we had to get a few dashboards, especially in the facilities area of what sites are open. It's important to know what sites are either closed, working from home or open, (which is unusual,) and how many people are going into each office around Europe. That gives us a good idea how also to manage suppliers from that point of view too. So that dashboard is very useful.

How is Sony managing with the directive for non-essential workers to work from home?

Not everyone is used to working from home, so it has taken a while to adjust to the technology, as well as the lack of direct contact. It's a very strange time, and the lack of social interactions has been tough for a lot of us, but I think technology has worked really well to bridge those gaps. Welfare is one of Sony's top priorities. With my team, I have a daily call. We all have our videos on, we all see each other. It's only for half an hour, and it's not all about work, it's what we've been up to, what we've been doing. It's just nice to chat, to be honest with you. It's nice to have a bit of a laugh and keep in contact with the team.

Is there any training that you've been issuing for employees to help them acclimatise to new technology?

Yes, most definitely. That's critical because I think we're quite advanced in that field anyway, but for me, I feel it's a day-to-day technology that we sometimes take for granted. Using such tools like Microsoft Teams has been a God-send. The training hasn't been that extensive because it's difficult to train remotely, but it’s enough to get by.

Do you think you'll have more people working remotely once everyone is allowed to come back?

I think it probably will change how Sony and other businesses treat working from home in the future. I don't think the workplace will be the same afterwards. Probably initially, we'll just want to get everything back to a normal, stable business and ensure profitability, but then on reflection, a year down the line, maybe that will have an impact.

What do you think some of the long term impacts of COVID-19 on the industry are going to be?

I think we’ll be less likely to take things for granted, and we’ll have a deeper insight into how to work well in a crisis. For procurement, I think this will shift the focus more away from savings and payment terms, and towards vendor management, because we’re having much more interaction with our supplier base to ensure that we have a supply chain to get us through this difficult time.

Do you think the pandemic will catalyse the centralisation of data?

For the industry as a whole I think it will. Sony is digitally mature, and has had a data lake from lots of different systems for quite some time. During these times it’s more essential than ever to have that one view of how procurement are performing, and what may happen in the future.

Do you have any words for encouragement for those people who are struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

These are tragic times because, first and foremost, people are becoming very unwell, and dying. Alongside this, businesses are shrinking commercially. However, I do firmly believe that once the virus is under control there will be quite a quick rebound economically, and that we'll be all doing business in a year's time. People will be flying, people will be working in a very similar way. We won't change that commercial behaviour in the long term.

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