Procurement's Road to Victory

Breaking down ways Sourcing Heroes can establish connections and create value at every juncture on procurement’s road to victory.

By Mackenzie Oakley | April 4, 2024

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Some heroes wear capes, and some … read contracts? 

Absolutely.

Mark Grieco is one such hero. A practicing procurement attorney and long-time educator, Mark works deep in the procurement trenches, simultaneously litigating or consulting on contracts on behalf of corporations while teaching procurement teams around the world best practices for things like project management, how to build strong contracts or statements of work, or how to engage in effective negotiations with suppliers.

With this background, Mark has been uniquely positioned to observe how procurement performs in high-stakes situations. In a recent episode of The Sourcing Hero podcast, he spoke with Kelly Barner about how procurement’s value proposition is evolving and the important role that relationship building plays in that process, especially in an increasingly remote, digital business landscape.  

Procurement's road to victory

“Procurement’s job is to add value at every step of the way,” said Mark. But, he also acknowledges that delivering value is sometimes a more complicated matter for procurement than for other business units.

“Procurement sits in a very unique position between the C-suite, the stakeholders, and the suppliers, and we’re always tasked with making everyone happy,” he said. “But, we have none of the decision-making power, and it’s always our fault.”

All the responsibility with little final authority could create a high-pressure situation for some in procurement that, over time, might really take a toll. But, says Mark, there are ways to answer the needs of stakeholders while remaining empowered and aligned with the business. This requires procurement to make themselves accessible to stakeholders, clearly explain the value they can provide, and ultimately empower stakeholders with the knowledge and processes they need to successfully manage their purchases.

Procurement is expected to create value every step of the way. We can do this by making ourselves accessible to stakeholders and empowering them with knowledge.

Procurement's value proposition

Unfortunately, like many of us, Mark has seen first-hand how remote or virtual environments can undermine the key relationship-building aspect of procurement’s value proposition.

“How can you show your value? How can you not be a cost center if you are not in person with people, walking the floor with stakeholders and people in the C-suite, and selling what you can do? It’s not going to happen like this,” Mark said.

While this might not mean working in the office every day from 9-5, Mark says that procurement shouldn’t underestimate the power of regular facetime when it comes to increasing their influence, building stronger relationships, and providing more value to stakeholders and the business.

“If your company says you can come in or you can work from home, make sure that you spend a little bit of time going in person – I call it showing the flag – walking around, saying hi, and making yourself available to people,” he said. “If you have a facility that is not in one place and you have locations, visit them. Talk to them. Understand what they are doing out at the locations.”

For procurement, which sits at the center of so many different stakeholder interactions, stepping out of the shadows of their computer screens and showing up in real life is much more than a show of good faith to the business… it can literally change the way the business sees their role in the organization. 

“As an entire profession, procurement needs to shine. We need to be visible to people. We need people to want to come to us,” said Mark. “We cannot be a barrier, which means we as a profession have to be agile” – agile and accessible. 

What does victory look like?

A large part of remaining agile, he says, requires procurement to cultivate the understanding that each stakeholder is unique and, as such, requires a unique approach, communication style, or even level of support and understanding. “Victory is about making meaningful connections,” said Mark, and to make those meaningful connections, procurement has to value every single stakeholder interaction, making sure that their perspective is heard and understood.

“For procurement, victory means every single time you talk to a person – no matter who they are, even if they have never come to you before – you establish that connection so they remember you and come to you as a resource in the future.”

Little victories every day can add up to a lot for procurement, creating the kind of forward momentum they need to rally the business behind their mission and establish their reputation as an indispensable cog in the organizational machine that keeps it all moving smoothly. 

That’s why, even though Mark has been fighting the good fight for procurement for years, he thinks the real hero behind procurement is the profession itself.

“I think the entire profession of procurement is the hero of an organization. We may not get the credit. We might get the blame. But we are heroes,” said Mark.

“We keep all the purchases moving in an organization. We help people find suppliers. We teach people to be innovative. We come up with new ideas. We might move one word in a contract and change the entire thing – one change can make you a hero.”

For more insight, listen to Mark’s full episode here:

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