It goes without saying that technical procurement skills and business acumen are the prerequisites to be successful in procurement. Professionals who are reluctant to bring in high-level talent for fear that they will be overshadowed and potentially displaced achieve suboptimal results.
The best leaders bring in the best talent and lead that talent to deliver high levels of performance. The confidence to on-board, coach, mentor and execute strategies is a valuable asset to any organization.
Procurement professionals are often very detail-oriented, organized people, and such attention to the fine points is a tremendous asset in the job. But so is the ability to see the big picture and long-term strategies that benefit the organization by advancing efficiencies and productivity.
Effective procurement professionals balance the details with the overall mission. They identify the needs of their customers and find the best ways to meet those needs. Building stakeholder and supplier relationships based on trust, mutual benefits, and innovation while still delivering value is a core requirement (and no easy feat) for procurement professionals.
Standing apart as one of the prominent personalities in the procurement niche is Thiago Braga, an accomplished global Supply Chain & Procurement leader with over 20 years of experience modernizing organizations, creating innovative solutions, unlocking value and improving customer service.
Working as the Senior Program Officer at Alberta Health Services, Mr Braga’s commitment to results, value creation, and customer satisfaction is embarking upon the horizons of success. As a change enabler and enterprise leader, Mr Braga is driven by transformation and the promotion of a healthy work environment.
In an interview with Insights Success, Mr Braga highlights his professional tenure, the challenges that he had to overcome and aspects that make him stand out as a staunch leader in the niche.
Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Briefly describe your professional journey up until now. What challenges did you face along the way?
One of my first introductions to Supply Chain was somewhere around 5-10 years of age when I rode a bike and made deliveries for my family’s business.
While in university, I was exposed to business development and operations/manufacturing. I also explored several other supply chain functions: Import/Export for global electronics manufacturing, International Procurement & Inventory Planning for a European chemical organization, and international trading for a global Asian firm.
When close to finishing university, I went into the automotive and distribution sectors and that’s where the wheels started moving faster. From leading Procurement in South America, I was fortunate with the opportunity to be expatriated to the United States, where I led North American Operations and supported teams worldwide. At the same time, the organization grew by more than 300%. I also experienced Aerospace, Agriculture and when I moved to Canada, I gained new accountabilities in the Power Generation, Mining, and Electricity businesses. More recently, my leadership roles were in the Public and Healthcare Sectors.
My professional journey spanned more than 11 organizations, living in 3 countries, and being accountable for several transformation/turnaround programs. From start-ups to managing multi-billion-dollar spending on large teams in global operations, I have first-hand experience in all areas of the Supply Chain. My MBA and a professional Supply Chain designation also were good pillars in my journey. After 20 years in the profession, I’m still fascinated by how SCM has evolved and grown in its importance. I faced multiple challenges throughout my career.
At times, it was drastic regulatory changes, high inflation, supply chain disruptions, financial adversities, acquisitions, dramatic growth, and at times dramatic recession, including the pandemic storm. All these challenges helped me to build a very diverse experience, resilience, and a continuous improvement mentality.
What significant impact have you brought to the procurement industry?
I led transformation programs that recently delivered more than $300M in value and up to 10 times ROI. I pivoted businesses to brand new operating models never done before, fast-tracking strategic and operational roadmaps. I led impactful outsourcing initiatives, technology implementation, and sustainability programs (ESG/DEI).
My contributions enabled exponential business growth and I always empowered teams with clear accountabilities, succession, and coaching of the next generation of leaders. I am committed to giving back and elevating the profession, and that’s why I have also been part of both for-profit and non-profit boards.
Tell us about Alberta Health Services and its foundation pillar.
AHS is the largest and most integrated healthcare system in Canada, and one of the top in the world. It’s a massive organization serving 4.4 million people, 112,000+ employees, a $15 Bi budget, and more than 900 facilities, including hospitals, clinics, continuing care facilities, cancer centres, mental health facilities and community health sites.
The corporate mission is patient-focused, offering a quality health system that is accessible and sustainable. Core values include Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Excellence, and Safety (CARES). It’s a fast-paced and progressive organization solidified by growth and innovation.
How does Alberta Health Services promote workforce flexibility, and what is your role in it?
The Pandemic forced employees around the world to move to a home-office work environment at a moment’s notice. What began by necessity turned into a long-lasting change.
AHS encourages a flexible work environment (on-site, hybrid, or fully remote) and employees appreciate that flexibility. Both AHS and I are results-driven, so if the work is getting done, a flexible work environment is encouraged.
What is your take on technology’s importance, and how are you leveraging it?
Technology is part of our lives and a vital enabler at work.
The ecosystem has numerous devices, apps, software, and internal/external interfaces that need to work in full coordination. Three of my considerations include:
1) What do you need that for?
2) How will you deploy/use it?
3) Who is best suited to own it?
There were times in my career when implementing or upgrading an ERP made total sense. Other times, it made more sense to outsource not just a technology piece but a fundamental part of our operation because it wouldn’t be worth automating something when a supplier could do it much more efficiently than us.
So, understanding the expected outcome, who’s best suited to own it, and how that will be deployed and maintained gave me very distinct strategies and implementation paths.
On another angle, I have automated the S2C and P2P cycles, creating demand forecasting models, and monitoring the entire chain’s performance with thoughtful models that helped to mitigate risk and create higher value output for the business.
What will be the next significant change in the procurement industry, and how are you preparing for it?
Deeper utilization of technology is a given: From predictive analyses to monitoring the entire chain (multiple tiers) and expansion of AI, ML, and Blockchain.
Another observation is how leaders leverage the gap left by what technology cannot do yet (i.e., critical thinking, relationship building, navigation through complex human environments). No matter how advanced technology gets, the “People skills” will still play a huge part. We can’t rely 100% on technology alone.
On another angle, there is a growth of vertical integration and multidisciplinary teams working under one roof. Many organizations are integrating business expertise (engineering, operations) into the Supply Chain organization. Our profession is not just an arm to support the business, but in many cases it’s becoming the business itself.
I expect to see more engineers doing procurement (technical purchasers) or clinical professions performing sourcing roles, and that’s to increase business expertise in Supply Chain.
In some organizations Sales and Procurement also fused as a merged commercial team. A much more integrated supply chain will require a mixture of skillset under the same roof to shorten functional gaps and gain agility.
What are your goals in the upcoming future?
I have experience in many industries over the last 20 years. Supply Chain is a very rich profession, and each industry has its own strengths. I want to continue learning and flexing existing and new muscles.
I’m excited about the future and want to continue learning and creating value. I’m invested in helping others to succeed, so my goal is also to benefit the community and keep coaching and mentoring others to achieve their success as well.
What advice would you like to give the next generation of aspiring business leaders?
Don’t forget nor undermine your ‘people skills.’ No matter how many credentials you have or how much technology you know, basic relational skills will always benefit you. Seek to build relationships, to help others, to be empathetic, compassionate, humble, caring, and altruist. We’re all humans and need to properly relate to each other.
On a second note, leadership is both an art and science, and it takes time.
So, I encourage the next generation to put in the hard work and avoid skipping steps. Take your time, get well-rounded, put some mileage in your professional odometer, and be open to continuous change.
Career progression is more of a roller-coaster than a linear staircase, and you need to learn to enjoy the ride instead of just focusing on the destination – otherwise, it will be like chasing the wind.