The Evolution of Procurement
By Mackenzie Oakley | June 9, 2022
As part of the sourcing industry, we’ve heard for quite some time now that procurement has been slowly transitioning away from simply being a tactical, back-office function. Instead, there has been a shift within the profession that’s focusing on more strategic, long-term thinking, continuous improvement, and building relationships that help us reach our goals.
Procurement is now all about finding ways to streamline the way in which organizations make purchases, align the function with the company’s overall objectives, and deliver value that goes far beyond the typical cost savings.
We know that acting strategically in procurement has its benefits, leading to cost savings, lower risk, and creating a competitive advantage for organizations that take the time to master the skills of strategic sourcing.
But how can we ensure procurement continues to evolve? And are we further along than we think?
Having a "seat at the table"
The reference to the phrase, “Having a seat at the table,” is used plenty amongst procurement professionals because for a long time, this has been the goal, right? For procurement to be equally represented amongst the C-Suite and given the same opportunities as the CEO, CFO, and COO to influence the business.
Jeff Bever, the Senior Director of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at Mars, thinks it’s time to move past this sentiment. In fact, Bever believes procurement is already there.
Sourcing professionals are starting to have conversations with the leaders who are driving the business forward. This isn’t necessarily limited to the CEO or President of the company, either.
These conversations can happen with any internal counterpart who is leading a team or another function; if they are coming to you asking for assistance, listening to your suggestions, and you’re able to help them grow, then procurement has indeed arrived “at the table.”
A more productive path forward
As a profession, it’s time for procurement to move beyond the notion that just because you’re not on the board of directors, doesn’t mean the function isn’t making an impact. Instead, focus on the work we’re actively doing. When we do that, others will take note.
The last few years have proved this theory. Procurement has become a crucial component to having a healthy organization, having a hand in protecting the supply chain, making sure things are delivered on time, meeting the needs of their customers and supporting internal functions so they can do the same.
Tips for continuing the right conversations with the business
In an effort to keep procurement evolving in the right direction and focusing on the right things will help ensure procurement continues generating results. In episode 55 of The Sourcing Hero podcast, Bever provides some quick takeaways:
- Refrain from using heavy procurement language all of the time
- Have empathy for those around you
- Communicate and adapt to others’ needs and wants
- Don’t focus too much on procurement’s own metrics or KPIs
In short, focus on the desired outcome, and build backwards from there – this is where you’ll find the true value of procurement. Finding the right person to help move towards those collective goals is also key.
In order to change the way a certain part of the company works or to help other functions realize more value from suppliers or third party service providers, keep in mind you may need to look beyond the conventional C-Suite to do so.
Procurement as problem solvers
Keep in mind that business happens on the ground. Reach out to individuals or regional counterparts, for example, to find out what will help them be successful. Do we have the right suppliers and transportation partners in place? Is their facility being serviced appropriately? Where can we drive efficiencies? Take time to understand their challenges and learn learn what their needs are.
At the end of the day, procurement professionals are essentially problem solvers. We work to bring people together, are able to offer a broader prospective, and find solutions to some very complex challenges. Procurement can be very successful when we’re truly focused on the business outcomes as a whole.
For more on this topic and insight into developing procurement talent to further advance the evolution of procurement, listen to The Sourcing Hero podcast:
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