Daily Archives: April 8, 2014

Stagnant Sourcing, Part II

Today’s guest post is from Joe Payne, Vice President of Professional Services at Source One Management Services, LLC and co-author of Managing Indirect Spend: Enhancing Profitability Through Strategic Sourcing.

In yesterday’s post, Joe began to address the fact that despite the clear path laid out before them — the path of “take a strategic approach, see positive results” — many procurement groups are still falling behind and failing to do just this. He noted that while the reality of the situation is different for every organization, there are some trends that weigh more heavily than others and discussed two of these trends. In today’s post, he discusses two more.

Lack of Skill Sets and Vision

While everyone might jump on board and say they do not have the proper resources, this reason is a little harder for some to admit. A large portion of procurement groups are operating without the analytical skills and foresight necessary to implement more strategic initiatives. While some might see this as the result, or the validation, of Jack Welch’s infamous quote, it is also due to the traditional role procurement currently plays or has played for most of the department’s existence.

In many companies, procurement is nothing but a rubber-stamp — just another step in the issuance of a purchase order. In others, they may have implemented a three-bid process or another similar purchase control method to try and secure savings, at which point they become viewed as not a rubber stamp but as a hindrance — not a step in the issuance of a purchase order, but a hurdle. And I will stop for a second and explain that procurement is not always pigeonholed into this tactical role because it is all they can do. This tactical limitation is often just as much an indictment of a failure by management to capitalize on the full abilities of all of its resources as it is a statement on the limited capabilities of procurement professionals.

Skills carried over from education and prior experience are not like riding a bicycle. These skills fade and fall away. This limited role, when performed for a long enough period, can limit the effectiveness of any prior analytical skills that fall outside the needs of the assigned role. Luckily, one of the benefits attributed to the rise of Supply Chain Management programs at major universities is the resultant increase in incoming supply chain personnel with college-honed analytical skills tailored to the procurement industry.

Procurement may soon be equipped with the skilled resources needed for strategic changes.

Management Is Not Interested

A final hurdle for procurement groups looking to make a strategic leap is disinterested leadership. Executive management, whose approval is and would be needed for a procurement group to “resource-up” and/or take on new challenges, might not think procurement is capable of such initiatives. Alternatively, leadership may be disinterested due to their inability to see the benefits to procurement taking on strategic endeavors. This can be frustrating, but it can be solved.

Disinterested management has to be persuaded, and the easiest way to persuade is through a prolonged effective internal marketing campaign. Reports should not be seen as an administrative chore, but rather as an advertisement for a procurement department. Operating transparently should not be seen as micromanaging, but as a way to actively show interested parties how effective the procurement department can be. Other successful procurement groups — when they make the news — can also be used as leverage to convince an otherwise-disinterested leadership group that strategic procurement endeavors can be worth the investment.

Additional marketing methods could include a training program designed to mitigate the frustration that comes from procurement’s involvement with some stakeholders. One of the most effective methods is securing a “bell cow”. A procurement department wishing to be given a more strategic role should identify an influential stakeholder and work to get that person onboard with their efforts. They should then use that person as a cheerleader for the group.

Wrapping Up

There is no single reason why procurement groups do not undertake strategic endeavors, just as there is no single party at fault. However, the evidence is mounting that those procurement groups that do not set themselves up strategically will face a widening gap between themselves and the best-in-class operations.

Thanks again, Joe!