Today’s guest post is from Tony Bridger, an experienced provider of Procurement Consulting and Spend Analysis services across the Commonwealth (as well as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt) who has been delivering value across continents for two decades. He is currently President of UK-based TrainingWorx Ltd, a provider of a wide range of Procurement and Analytic business training programs (inc. GDPR, spend analysis, project management, process improvement, etc.) and focussed short-term consulting solutions. Tony can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yves St Laurent was an outstanding fashion designer in very many respects. However, he had very clear views on how fashion works. He summarised it in five words:
“fashions fade, style is eternal”.
There is little or no doubt that the procurement world has (once again) jumped on a fashion trend. In the fashionista world, everyone is busy being a transformer, a value-adder, a people empoweree – and now agile. This must leave so little room in the day for saving money – it is costly to keep up with fashion trends as we all know.
Agile is an interesting word. Agile applied to procurement is a very interesting word.
Agile springs from an alternative approach to software development. However, it seems to have neatly morphed in to a word that seems to express some form of new, vague approach to sourcing. Mark C. Layton in the Dummies Guide to Agile Management and Procurement Practices (2012) focuses on software acquisition and development as the basis for an agile approach – and how vendors can be managed in agile technology driven development projects.
CIPS published a paper in their Knowledge Summary series (undated) where some four pages of (unfocused) discussion results in the conclusion that:
“As this paper makes clear, ‘lean’ and ‘agile’ concepts have been, and continue to be, the subject of academic research………… (and) that ‘lean’ and ‘agile’ are not simply theoretical concepts.
Well, no help there then. After a little rummaging through much word-smithing (I hope I don’t start a new fashion with that phrase), I found an article on Rev-International (Source) – so, quite recent. The article states:
“To be agile means to be able to think, understand, and move quickly and easily. To be agile, according to Cornell, procurement organizations need to have the knowledge and ability to move quickly.”
Sadly, this deductively implies that unless they adopt the new fashion, procurement teams will remain inherently slow and unfashionably nerdy. It gets worse:
“It’s about using market knowledge and business intelligence to exploit profitable opportunities,”
From experience both as a member of, and supplier, to a wide range of procurement organisations, this is pretty much what most seem to do for a living. However, admittedly, there is still a major capability gap in the use of business data intelligence in many procurement teams. Many writers still focus on Agile as a procurement technology driven function – not much to do with “the rest” of the sourcing portfolio. So where does this leave us? I am now really not sure what to wear.
Don’t you just hate it when a piece of music gets in to your thinking….and you can’t turn it off? The Kinks, in 1966, wrote a song called “Dedicated follower of fashion”. There is one line that he/she is:
“……. Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends”
It is too easy to become distracted by the fashionable and the pursuit of a silver bullet – by all means learn new techniques – and adapt if it fits. However, it would be much better to see good procurement teams (continuing) to deliver quickly, using business intelligence and supplier collaboration – but with style – and a perhaps a little panache. It’s really business as usual, save money, avoid chasing fashions. Who knows, perhaps I am just plain old-fashioned and too focused on style.