Daily Archives: October 9, 2023

If You Want Good Procurement People …


A common problem among all Procurement departments is their ability to find good, educated, experienced people. The reason for this is simple: there just aren’t enough good, educated, and experienced people to fill all the Procurement positions that should exist among corporations world-wide.


1. Procurement isn’t Sexy

People go into careers that are attractive. These are careers that are held in high regard (like doctors and lawyers), careers that pay well (like finance and tech), careers that are currently in high demand where unusually high premiums can be found in the right locations (like nursing or remote mining/O&G positions), or careers that bring fame (like acting, entertaining, and professional sports). People don’t go into careers that no one’s heard of, careers that have a negative stigma, or careers that don’t pay well. Guess what bucket(s) Procurement falls into? The latter three. No one’s heard of it (who even advertises their world class Procurement, yet alone makes it sexy — that’s right, no company on earth). It’s still thought to be the Island of Misfit Toys. And many people think back office purchasing pay scales are akin to entry level AP clerks.

2. There are No Real Procurement Programs

Prestigious Universities have prestigious business schools. These focus on executive management and basic operations. The best of these will also teach classic logistics. There are only a few Supply Chain Management programs globally, and none of these teach modern Procurement platforms and processes as a general rule. A few have brief introductions to modern spend analysis or e-Auction or RFP platforms, but that’s literally two decades old tech in our field. No one coming out of University has any real understanding of modern procurement processes, best practices, or platforms.

3. Most Procurement People Have Very Narrow Skill Sets

When you’re in Procurement because you get put there, fall there because there was nothing else at the time and you needed a job, or voluntarily move there to help the company because you demonstrated a knack for buying certain categories and without you, the company would be suffering and possibly have to layoff your friends, you didn’t go there because you had the right education and experience and knew it was the best job for you. Furthermore, when companies don’t invest in the education you need to learn end-to-end processes, best practices, and category specifics outside of the area you came from, you end up developing, usually by trial and error, a very narrow skill set in terms of applications you can use, processes you know, and market interpretation to determine if the offer is reasonable in current market conditions. This makes it very hard to jump to another job and be a good buyer in another category, or even a similar category where you would have to buy a whole new set of parts from a whole new set of suppliers in a whole new geography.

Thus, it’s going to be very hard, for any intermediate position, to find the right person who can walk in and do the job at market average performance day one.

However, Procurement is not rocket science, open heart surgery, or CPU design. It’s not hard to find very smart engineers, mathematicians, technologists, pharmacists, chemists, etc. who can, with focussed training in best-practice procurement processes and platforms, very quickly pick up the basics of Procurement and use their deep knowledge of products and R&D/Engineering/Manufacturing needs to identify the best products, suppliers, and partners for the organization. These highly educated individuals will also have a decent background in mathematics, algorithms, and logic to learn the spend analysis / market intelligence platforms and quickly identify market average prices and costs for products and parts and be able to analyze bids against current organizational prices, market prices, and should cost models to identify those suppliers offering fair quotes as well as additional service-based value.

With a few weeks of focussed training on key processes and platforms, these resources can often be up and running effectively, and with a few months of training over their first few years, quickly progress to a top-tier performer. All you have to do is bring back the Learning & Development budget and train them by hiring appropriate analysts and consultancies to design/deliver the courses they need to be effective for your organization. And even though custom courses can cost considerable up-front dollars, 10K is nothing if it helps a top-tier resource identify a 10% savings on a 10M contract, as that’s literally a 100X return on your investment. (Remember this the next time someone considers cutting the training budget for Procurement as the return on proper training for a good resource will always exceed the investment many times over.)