If you ever happen to be Roy Anderson's seatmate on a flight and ask, “So, what do you do?”—well, brace yourself for impact.

Anderson is a self-professed supply chain evangelist.

With former titles like Chief Procurement Officer and Vice President for Global Procurement for heavyweights like State Street, MetLife, and Fidelity Investments, among others, the retired Anderson is now passing along his insider knowledge to Huskies, most recently nabbing the 2023 D'Amore-McKim Teaching Innovation & Excellence Award for the Supply Chain Virtual Innovation Lab he taught this past fall.

Every company I got into, I thought, ‘How can I change everything?' So, I became a change agent and realized my teams were change agents. And I needed to be more of an evangelist than anything else.

Roy Anderson

Offering students a unique opportunity to gain practical insights and hands-on experience in the field of procurement, “the class functions as a virtual ecosystem where students acquire insights into the strategic sourcing process and actively engage in the technology that drives innovation,” he explains.

Anderson crafted the class so students can learn from industry experts and investigate the value of innovative technology. As a result, they get hands-on use of current and emerging technology and go on to understand spend analysis, generate category targets to source, dive into research of category levers, and develop category and sourcing strategies that include risk, sustainability, diversity, and innovation within a competitive ecosystem.

Anderson partnered with third-party vendors and technologies that businesses use now, including Focal Point Solutions CPO Dashboard, a centralized platform for managing and tracking sourcing projects; Spendata, a spend analytics tool that provides insights into spending patterns and category opportunities; Market Dojo, an e-sourcing platform for managing RFPs and supplier selection; and Vroozi, a procure to pay system for automating and streamlining the purchase-to-pay process.

And, true to Northeastern's mission of experiential education, Anderson obtained actual university data so students could analyze real spending across all categories, including laptop purchases and temporary labor, to find solutions on how to economize and consider big picture business issues like diversity and sustainability.

“I really enjoyed taking a deep dive into the procurement software that businesses around the world are using on a daily basis,” says Finance and Fintech student Everett Gravelle, DMSB'26.

His group worked with Market Dojo to identify the most suitable suppliers in the market that Northeastern could—theoretically—partner with going forward. “Getting the firsthand experience of experimenting with the functionality of this kind of software was challenging, yet exciting!” he says.

After taking Anderson's class, Marketing and Finance student Jasbina Sabharwal, DMSB'25, says she realized the intricacies of the supply chain are present everywhere. “In my professional journey, I now understand not to underestimate the importance and value of efficiency within a supply chain. It is like a domino effect: if one aspect of the supply chain is malfunctioning, all other processes following will be negatively impacted. Similarly, if one step is enhanced, it benefits the remaining steps, allowing for increased productivity and improved results.”

But the supply chain is more than just about improving business operations; Anderson and his class also looked at ethical, sustainability, and diversity concerns that are impacted by the supply chain.

“Questions like, does the supplier have a laptop recycling program? Where are these laptops produced? Do they have a slave labor policy?” Anderson says. “Diversity is an impact issue.”

For all of Anderson's enthusiasm about supply chain, he fell into the field somewhat haphazardly. He attended Babson College at the suggestion of his older brother, and when he graduated with a degree in finance and economics, Anderson was presented with an offer to go into sales. He was confident and persuasive, but in an interview with Raytheon, his future boss saw something more in him.

“He said, ‘Roy, you are exactly the person that should be in supply chain.' I'm like, ‘Supply what!?' I'm a finance and economics guy! And he said, ‘Well, your first assignment is in Santa Barbara, California.'”

That was the beginning for Anderson, who that day in the 1980's unwittingly embarked on a long career in supply chain innovation during the early days of computers and digital workforce innovation. He quickly started implementing technology that transformed the entire Raytheon procurement function.

“I'm like, ‘this is cool. I'm going to do this my whole life,'” he laughs now. “And every company I got into, I thought, ‘How can I change everything?' So, I became a change agent and realized my teams were change agents. And I needed to be more of an evangelist than anything else.”

These days, he wants his students to do the same—be change agents and evangelists for innovative technologies like the ones he showcases in his Supply Chain Virtual Innovation Lab to disruptive AI-fueled applications like ChatGPT.

“ChatGPT is the next thing. If you're not using ChatGPT, you're missing the boat,” he says. “That's the exact same thing I said in 1985, and it means just as much today, if not more. If you're not ahead of the technology, you're going to be run over by it.”