Tips for Managing a One-Person Procurement Function

How to successfully manage a one-person procurement team in a way that drives cost savings and value, and improves efficiency.

By Hugo Britt | June 9, 2020


Many businesses, regardless of size, oftentimes have a single person in charge of their supply chain and procurement programs. As such, being in this position can feel like you’re reluctantly assuming a lone wolf personality in the world of business. Without the support of a pack, you’re left to develop and implement every last detail of a procurement strategy alone.

While things like time, money and manpower may be limited, lone wolves are known for their resourcefulness and agility. Fiercely independent and self-reliant, they’re able to hunt for the best suppliers and negotiate strong contracts on their own.

Running a one-person procurement team

How do these elite professionals accomplish the same amount – or more – than organizations with larger procurement teams? What if there were resources and sourcing strategies available that made you feel less alone?

In this article, we’ll discuss several ways you can successfully manage a (very) lean team to make the biggest impact.

With the right tools, a one-person procurement team can be successful at driving cost savings, improving efficiencies, and creating value for their organization.

Assess procurement needs and prioritize

Before anything else, it is essential to evaluate your business goals. This will help you obtain a clear understanding of what the organization needs – and what it can afford. Take time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current procurement process as well. Identify areas where resources need to be allocated and familiarize yourself with current purchasing patterns and trends.

Once you know which procurement tasks are critical to the company’s success, prioritize. This will ensure that you’re focusing on high-impact items first. It’s also important to communicate with stakeholders and understand their needs and priorities as this can influence your procurement strategy.

Streamline and automate wherever possible

Next, simplify and streamline procurement processes where you can. Erratic procurement practices can make it more complicated to manage expenses, making it difficult to effectively leverage the company’s resources.

Paper-based processes are cumbersome and outdated. Today, a lean procurement team has access to a robust procurement software market. Consider adopting a centralized buying program that can streamline administrative processes across the business and create efficiencies through integrated channels. Tap into the power of AI to automate tasks like market research, spend analytics, supplier selection, performance monitoring, and payment processing.

Chatbots can answer procurement-related questions from other people in the business that you’d otherwise be spending time answering. Instead of emailing you, stakeholders could easily start a chat to learn how to order a laptop or book travel. Finding opportunities to create self-service portals will free up your time to focus on other areas.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Instead of getting lost in the details, build dashboards that enable you to think strategically and focus on the bigger picture. At times, it may be necessary to analyze a certain category in-depth. However, the main priority should be to create processes and systems that run without your involvement.

Automating the day-to-day running of procurement doesn’t make the function less human. It frees up time for sourcing managers to increase procurement’s influence in the organization and develop strategic relationships with suppliers.

Manage positive, strategic relationship

Procurement is not just about acquiring products and services. It’s also about building solid and trust-based relationships with suppliers. Nurturing long-term relationships with the right suppliers can provide access to things like custom pricing and innovation. It also helps ensure smooth communication between buyers and suppliers.

It’s important not only to foster long-term supplier relationships but also to build good relationships with stakeholders within the company. Having an open and transparent relationship with all departments can help highlight the value of procurement.

Focus on outcomes

With limited resources, your main focus should be on outcomes rather than creating a complex and time-consuming procurement strategy. Identify procurement functions that will have the most significant impact on the business, and focus on those.

Also, consider developing procurement KPIs that measure the impact of manufacturing decisions on business outcomes. KPIs can help identify what needs to improve, and where the procurement function should direct efforts.

Effectively managing a one-person procurement function doesn't need to feel impossible. There are plenty of resources available to help you build a strategic and holistic approach to procurement.

Explore procurement outsourcing

As much as we try, a single person cannot accomplish everything all at once. That’s why it’s often necessary – and perfectly acceptable – to outsource certain procurement tasks. Outsourcing can span both transactional and strategic procurement activities.

A third party can help with purchasing, procurement administration and reporting, accounts payable, and technology support. An outside expert can help with things like supplier management and strategic sourcing.

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:

  • Save more money. Una’s GPO members save an average of 18-22% on products and services through collective buying power, giving them access to deep supplier discounts.
  • Save more time. The RFP process can take months and may not be the best method for every purchase. Contract negotiation can also leave you with uncertainty and higher prices. In many instances, a GPO allows you to skip over the RFP process.
  • Save more effort. Gathering all the data required to make the best decision about supplier selection can take weeks. With a GPO, that information has already been compiled for you. GPO members have access to a portfolio of pre-negotiated contracts available for immediate use.

The right GPO will work as an extension of your internal team. You’ll get to work with other industry experts who can provide advice based on years of experience in the field.

Effectively managing a one-person procurement function doesn’t need to feel impossible. There are plenty of resources available to help even the loneliest wolf build a strategic and holistic approach to procurement.

If you are you running a one-person procurement team, there’s no need to do it alone. Una’s team of expert sourcing advisors is here to help. Download our playbook to learn more about improving the procurement process and increasing cost savings.18-

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