How to Run a One-Person Procurement Function
By Hugo Britt | June 9, 2020
Procurement departments are responsible for several functions within an organization. From buying products and services needed to run the business to managing relationships with suppliers, procurement is at the core when it comes to keeping an organization running smoothly.
Many of our members here at Una are smaller businesses, meaning their entire supply chain program is often run by a single person. These sourcing heroes are responsible for developing strategies to effectively run every aspect of their department.
I’ve always been in awe of the Sourcing Hero – working alone, they seem to achieve just as much (or even more) than organizations with a dozen or more people on the procurement team.
How do they do it?
In this article, we’ll discuss four ways the Sourcing Hero can efficiently run a one-person procurement function.
Automate wherever possible
How did people ever get things done back in the days of paper-based processes? Today, a one-person procurement team has access to a thriving procurement software market. Rather than trying to run everything in Excel, they can tap into the power of AI automation for tasks such as market research, spend analytics, supplier selection, performance monitoring, and payment processing.
To start, think about what is taking up most of your time. For example, you might find that much of your day is swallowed up answering dozens of procurement-related questions from other people in the business. You know the type: “Can I book my own flights?”, “Why can’t I stay at my favorite hotel?”, “How do I order a new laptop?”.
These questions could be answered with the help of a procurement chatbot. Instead of emailing or phoning you, stakeholders will simply summon the chatbot with the words, “Hey Procurement…”. Always look for opportunities to create self-service portals.
Trying to do everything at once is a recipe for getting nothing done. Sourcing Heroes are adept at working out what the business needs most right now, then prioritizing that over other tasks. In some cases, it makes sense to do things in a certain order, like getting your data under control (accurate and standardized) before attempting to engage with procurement AI.
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Don’t sweat the small stuff
Sourcing Heroes don’t get bogged down in the detail. Instead, they build dashboards that enable them to focus on the bigger picture and think strategically. Sometimes it may be necessary to deep-dive into a specific category to troubleshoot issues as they emerge, but otherwise the focus should be on setting up processes and systems that run without your intervention.
Automating the day-to-day running of procurement doesn’t make the function less human. In fact, the opposite is true, as it frees up time for sourcing heroes to increase procurement’s influence in the organization and develop strategic relationships with suppliers.
One-person procurement teams simply can’t do everything and be everywhere at once. That’s why it’s often necessary to outsource certain tasks. McKinsey reports that procurement outsourcing can span several activities, from strategic (supplier management, strategic sourcing, and demand management) to transactional (operational purchasing, procurement administration/reporting, accounts payable processing, and technology support).
Another option is to outsource category management to a group purchasing organization. A GPO leverages the collective buying power of its members to obtain volume discounts from suppliers and retailers. Businesses of all shapes and sizes can join a GPO to gain access to pre-negotiated contracts with the top suppliers.
The concept of group purchasing will help you:
Una members save an average 22% on products and services through collective buying power, giving them access to deep supplier discounts.
The RFP process can take months and may not be the best method for every purchase. Contract negotiation can also leave you with instability and higher prices.
Gathering all the data required to make the best decision about supplier selection can take weeks. With a GPO, that work is already done for you.
GPOs can work as an extension of the internal team, just like having an additional resource. Most importantly, membership with a GPO can provide Sourcing Heroes with something they’re sorely lacking – access to other procurement experts who can provide advice based on years of experience in the field.
Are you running a one-person procurement team? You don’t need to do it alone! Una’s team of expert sourcing advisors is here to help.