Procurement Needs to Change for the Better … But it is Currently Stalled!

A recent article over on Supply & Demand Chain Executive noted that Procurement is Changing for the Better, but if you look at the 5 most strategic objectives from the recent APQC survey they referenced, two of the five focus on costs — specifically, #2 on reducing procurement costs and #5 on maintaining of improving margin. Just like the recent Ivalua/Procurement Leaders survey, cost is the focus, and all the real value they could be delivering is being ignored — and the doctor would argue that while Procurement may have been changing for the better before the pandemic, the supply disruptions and successive inflation that resulted since has not only stalled that progress but reverted Procurement back to its early days.

The reason, as indicated in an article over on CIPS, which also references the Ivalua/Procurement Leaders survey, is inflation. Rapid inflation, which has not only wiped out prior savings for many organizations but resulted in the Procurement department blowning past budgets, has resulted in the C-Suite ordering Procurement to contain costs through any means necessary, and, as the CIPS article has noted, this has resulted in the ESG agenda, along with other agendas, being pushed to the sidelines, if not thrown out entirely.

This is very sad. Not only because ESG initiatives are critical, but because the other three priorities from the AQPC survey are also more critical:

  • avoiding supply disruption
  • improving social responsibility in supply chain
  • improving supplier relationships

First of all, the number one focus of procurement should always be supply, not spend. Doesn’t matter how great the negotiated savings are, if you don’t get the goods, you don’t get the savings and, more importantly, if that was product to sell, you don’t get the revenue. No cash-inflow, no business. (Or, as we say up North, No Sale, No Store.)

Secondly, with carbon emission limits and carbon taxes coming in globally, ESG needs to be a top priority, especially in jurisdictions where you are responsible for all of the carbon in your supply chain.

Thirdly, your quality and capability is limited to that of your suppliers, so you want to improve your suppliers, and that requires good relationships. Furthermore, suppliers can be a source of innovation and creativity, but you won’t get access to any of it without good relationships.

So how do we get Procurement over the hump and back to strategy and not cost reduction regardless of the true price that is paid? It’s a good question, especially when the focus is always short term and not long term. Long term, innovation, responsibility, quality, and sustainability will result in the best value for money, but this never happens in the short term. So, focus on long term sustainability, get back to value, and show the organization what Procurement can really do.