Today’s guest post is from Mat Langley, a Strategic Advisor and Procurement Executive with 14 years experience in leadership roles in strategic sourcing and category management in Europe, Africa and Asia across Finance, IT Outsourcing and Oil & Gas industries who is currently associated with Shortlist.co.
I want to start with a bold statement — in Procurement, the most challenging group to work with is most often Marketing. Almost every other function in the organization easily identifies the value we aim to deliver. When it comes to who’s really leading, the RFP there shouldn’t be a ‘hot potato scenario’ — we guide, as Procurement experts, and collaborate in a mutual partnership. Marketing, by comparison is still evolving their views on how to collaborate with Procurement. In a late 2014 study conducted by the ANA (Association of National Advertisers), nearly half of all Marketing and Procurement respondents stated that the relationship between them needed to be more collaborative. Nearly 50% of Marketing and Procurement professionals admit that they aren’t collaborating the way they need to in order to deliver maximum value to their brands.
Now, on the flip side, my experience with Marketing colleagues is that they are passionate, energetic and constantly focused on being creative. For Procurement (or Marketing) people reading — I’m guessing you’ve had more than a few debates and I’m sure that debate often centers on how Marketing feels like they’re wearing an RFP straightjacket designed, fitting and sewn by Procurement!
With agencies currently rebelling against RFP’s and even some very high profile CMOs like Linda Boff from GE calling for the ‘death of RFPs’1 — organizations can quickly get themselves in a downward spiral, ‘hot potato scenario’. It’s a relatively simple problem at its root: when Marketers don’t fully collaborate and provide the necessary support at the beginning of the RFP process, someone has to jump in and grab the ball (find the agencies, write the brief and RFP questions, and run the process) — that often ends up being Procurement — which doesn’t always lead to the best results for anyone involved: Marketing, Procurement, Agencies … everyone.
Hot Potato Was Fun as Kids — Not Today
To be clear, no one is at fault here. Marketing hates RFPs because they feel they are old and outdated; in stepping in to assist Marketing with their agency selection, Procurement ends up writing more of the RFP than they should, often using out of date questions; then it gets sent to more Agencies (just in case) because Marketing doesn’t have a short list or have time to find a strong and competitive agency panel; and finally, Agencies are overloaded responding to bloated RFPs and remember above – they’re also hoping that RFPs die. In the end, we’ve all played our part in proving exactly why RFPs are so terrible and ‘out of date’ – and the easy answer is just to kill them — and the tremendous value they can provide to everyone involved.
Now is not the time to kill the RFP (nor is that what we are suggesting) — it’s time to enhance our focus on improving communication, collaboration and building great internal and external partnerships. The marketing industry is changing so rapidly, with new channels and divisions, new technology, broader yet flatter reach requiring even more agility and calls for more focus on driving value out of every dollar spent. It’s an exciting time but also daunting and we need to ask ourselves, if the CMO is struggling to keep pace with this change, how are we going to support and bring value?
Time for more focus on what’s working and less ‘tossing blame around’ — Time to give Marketing the tools they want
Ok, I know that there is no perfect world where Marketing loves Procurement, Agencies love Procurement and Procurement loves procurement workloads… But there are things we’re doing really successfully that we can build upon. In Part II, I’ll suggest three areas the tools we’re implementing need to change to give Marketing what they need.