By Ronald Hedley
Crystal Khalil is CEO and founder of Crystal Khalil and Associates. She launched her company after working nineteen years for Porsche, most recently as Director, North America Indirect Procurement. She is also an author. Her book Hard Workers Work Hard, And Networkers Move Up is an international best seller.
An excerpt from Khalil’s book reveals her faith in God and humanity, and highlights her unbreakable bond with her late mother: “I was raised with an abundance of love. [Mom] instilled in me a good work ethic, integrity and morals” (p.17-18). She taught me to serve God, respect others and myself, persevere against the odds, [and] judge a man by the content of his character” (p.22).
Woven into Khalil’s career is her mom’s legacy. Khalil’s work ethic, community service, and faith in others can be directly attributed to her mom’s influence. By applying her depth and breadth of supply chain knowledge to digital transformations, and by developing and nurturing a network of colleagues and peers, Khalil has cultivated her mom’s legacy and made it her own.
Khalil reveals in her book how she learned early in her career that leaders do more than just work hard; they develop a network. “The best leaders understand success is a team effort. These helpers become the network, an arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical human connections that exchange information, support, develop, and introduce professional or social contacts” (p. 39).
Khalil believes that in order to move up in the business world, one must challenge oneself to “push past the terror barrier and walk into your purpose” (p. 154). She followed her own advice when she made the difficult decision to leave her comfortable job at Porsche and launch her own startup. “It was a difficult decision to make. I had a beautiful nest. It had [metaphorical] down pillows and glitter, and I got a new Porsche of my choice every six months,” she shares.
Although she loved her job and her colleagues at Porsche, that wasn’t enough. She recalls, “I just didn’t want to be comfortable. I wanted to continue challenging myself because I feel life is short. We should do the things that make time stand still, things that make our lights shine as bright as possible, things that make us feel good, things that create a legacy for ourselves and our families.”
Khalil developed her expertise in digital transformations at Porsche and has brought that knowledge to her startup: “There’s a lot happening in procurement right now. Everything from source to pay (S2P) innovation, AI and robotic processing, IOT, big data and analytics, mobility, and block chain. At Porsche, [I] focused on indirect procurement. S2P innovation was a major digital transformation that we went through. I was able to implement a full S2P system over the last four years,” she says.
Although she is no longer personally affiliated with the company, Khalil’s influence on Porsche remains. She says, “We have a Strategy 2025 where procurement is 100% paperless. As we continue to implement a S2P strategy, we plan to be 100% paperless in other functions too, such as accounts payable and legal. We have the opportunity to enhance controls [and] create efficiency across all of the S2P activities. When we did an assessment of all our processes, we found duplicates.” Khalil still fondly refers to her former colleagues at Porsche as “we.”
She then adds, “We were able to lay those processes on top of each other and figure out where we were having inefficiencies. [We monitored and evaluated] supply performance and developed scorecarding in the digital system versus the manual way we had been doing it.”
Khalil shares how she knows that proactive monitoring of any risk related to the supply chain is imperative: “Looking at the data from start to finish, and seeing how they are interrelated, helps drive the decision making. It gives you the ability to make quicker, more agile decisions.” She believes that as the industry evolves with innovations and new technologies, the same old procurement just won’t cut it anymore.
”I just didn’t want to be comfortable. I wanted to continue challenging myself because I feel life is short.–Khalil
Khalil is proud that her new company is contributing to that evolution. “We’re able to help leaders optimize their team results, manifest their vision, and catapult their leadership so that they can move up to the next level in their career. We serve high-performing leaders in the areas of coaching, training, [and] change management, and we’re venturing into diversity and inclusion. I am putting together a new proprietary S2P assessment and transformation process to change the management leadership process,” she shares.
Khalil and her associates understand that supply chain innovation alone will not suffice. She knows that digital transformation has a lot to do with technology, but she also knows that it correlates with human behavior. “People transformation is the most difficult part of any transformation because you’re challenging the status quo. Procurement people are analytical, problem solvers. They are compliant, cautious, precise and deliberate, myself included. When you challenge them to think outside of the box, it’s a little difficult.”
It is human nature to resist change, especially if said human doesn’t see the big picture. But Khalil believes that she has a remedy for the I-want-tokeep-doing-things-the-same-old-way syndrome: Over Communicate. She painted how this scene looks, and works, in real life: “Deal with the issues up front. When people are concerned with the extra work, address that up front. Tell them, ‘Yes, this is going to be a little extra work; you’re going to feel like you are working two jobs for the next six to nine months [during implementation]. But know that everything you put in now is going to make your life easier in the future. It’s going to allow you to do the things that you love.’”
Did she say love? She did indeed. Khalil explains how she believes procurement professionals are romantics at heart: “They love problem solving, having a seat at the table, negotiating with suppliers, and putting together a good contract that saves the company money and brings innovation to the team. They love all that, but they rarely get to indulge [in those things] because they are seen by many as [only] paperpushing roadblocks.” Khalil knows that procurement departments need to be the ones meeting with suppliers, that they need to take the lead in their respective companies.
She adds, “When you use the tools to take those mundane tactical tasks off the desk of a category manager, then [she/he is] able to spend more time with the functional departments building those relationships, and [is] able to spend more time with the suppliers looking for innovation opportunities.”
”When you use the tools to take those mundane tactical tasks off the desk of a category manager, then [she/he is] able to spend more time with the functional departments building those relationships, and [is] able to spend more time with the suppliers looking for innovation opportunities.–Khalil
Khalil then explains how, in order to make human and digital transformations a reality, there must be leadership: “Leadership is influence. Plain and simple, it’s influence. As the leader of digital transformation at Porsche, [my role] wasn’t just about rolling out a tool; it was about influencing the stakeholders internally, so that they are involved. [In order to achieve that, I created] internal ambassadors for the rollout.” Khalil created ambassadors in each department, who understood that digital transformation was going to be difficult, but, in the long term, [also knew that] innovation and technology was going to add value to the company and help bring procurement to the forefront. She explains, “A lot of companies put their money to the marketing and salespeople, and procurement is on the back end. If you allow your procurement organization to be a thought leader in the organization and have that seat at the table, we can help with the overall competitiveness and performance of the organization, so you can be a customer of choice.”
Khalil’s mother would be proud to know that her daughter does her homework. Khalil knows that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all that it implies is a relevant topic. She has recently researched the Human Centered Artificial Intelligence Department at Stanford University. She was impressed. “They recognize the importance of diversity, inclusion, humanity and thought, and their goal [in developing AI algorithms] is to enhance and augment what only humans can do.”
She then adds, “It takes one call to a call center to know that sometimes you need to talk to a human being. I like that they are looking at AI from an augmentation and enhancement standpoint. And they’re trying to bring diversity to the table.”
Khalil then recalled an AI algorithm mistake made by Google in 2015. It was discovered that the Google face recognition algorithm recognized black people as gorillas. When it was pointed out to Google, the initial fix was to remove and block the image of a gorilla from their system altogether.
Khalil rhetorically asks of this move, “Do you think there were any black people involved in the testing and creation of the algorithm? Absolutely not. Or else they would have known before it went live that it recognized black people as gorillas. Now imagine if that same algorithm were used in autonomous vehicles. And now a car has to make a decision as to whether or not it’s going to hit another car or a gorilla. What is it going to do? Who created it? That’s why it’s critical to have diversity and inclusion at the table, or else you make mistakes like that.”
Khalil sagaciously concludes with the declaration: “The future of AI in procurement is driving efficiency. It’s about automating the tactical pieces of procurement so that you reallocate those efficiencies to be more strategic, to enhance and augment, not to take over completely.”
Khalil’s mother did not attend college, but she dedicated her life to making sure that her daughter did. Khalil describes her mother’s commitment to her daughter’s higher education in her book: “My mother made it clear to me that college was expected. My mother provided me with every opportunity and experience she could afford so I could have a head start in life” (p. 17).
In 1993, Khalil graduated from DeVry University with a bachelor’s degree, and later graduated from Central Michigan University with a master’s degree. Her mom gave Khalil a head start in life, and through Khalil’s professional career and volunteer work (which includes Porsche Cares Network and the Caring For Others), she continues to lead.