Nedra Dickson - Managing Director, Global Supplier Inclusion & Sustainability Lead at Accenture
Having fallen into a procurement career via providing technical support, Nedra Dickson has become a world figure in promoting supply chain diversity.
Nedra Dickson is a Managing Director at Accenture. She leads its global supplier inclusion and sustainability programmes across 21 countries, and is also responsible for procurement operations across 30 nations in Europe.
Her deep expertise in procurement transformation and supplier relationship management has seen her manage an estimated US$2bn in labour spend.
Under her leadership, Dickson has elevated Accenture’s supplier diversity spend to approximately $1bn globally, and she is also credited with expanding Accenture’s award-winning Diverse Supplier Development Program (DSDP).
The programme is currently running in the US, Canada, UK, South Africa, Mexico, Germany, and India, with plans to further expand its reach.
In her 21 years with Accenture, Dickson has acquired a deep level of experience of working with Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries and a range of disciplines, including: technology consulting, operations management, procurement and sourcing and category management.
And, yet, procurement was never on the radar of this engineering and computer science graduate, who began her Accenture career in tech support.
“I made sure everyone had a laptop, and I helped write some of the software we were using back then,” she says, recalling that time.
Dickson moved on to providing help desk support for clients, and, in 2006, was tasked with moving the function to Bangalore, India.
“That translated into doing tech work for some of our clients, and that’s when I realised I wanted to be client-facing.
“I didn’t plan to go into procurement,” she admits. “It’s something that happened organically. I was told there was an opening in that area; I knew nothing about procurement but I was excited to learn how to help clients procure the goods and services they need.”
Decades on, and Dickson has carved out a unique role for herself at Accenture. “My current role sits within our strategy and consulting practice, and is aligned to our supply chain. I help clients build, design, develop and grow their own supplier inclusion and sustainability programmes. I also help them fill gaps in their supply chains using small and diverse businesses.”
She adds that her role is one that is made for procurement “because typically it is through procurement that contact with small and diverse businesses is made”.
“You’re procuring their services and some of their goods, so this is why so many of these kinds of businesses are aligned to procurement organisations. We work with them not only to procure their services, but to augment and leverage their talent.”
Such talent might be found upstream or downstream in the supply chain, she says: “They might be providing raw materials or they could be procuring your coffee, or procuring people to augment your IT service. There are diverse suppliers in marketing, in HR and in legal. There's so many categories small and diverse businesses cross.”
Dickson says that although the role is “immensely rewarding” it also comes with serious challenges, chief among which are misconceptions within Accenture around the worth of small and minority-owned businesses.
“Awareness around why an organisation needs to embrace supplier inclusion and diversity is an ongoing problem,” she says. “The stereotype is that such businesses are too risky, or too small.”
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