First a disclaimer - Until taking on my current role I have never before worked within procuremenT. I’ve been a programme manager and head of a VMO within a technology division where I often found myself at odds with procurement. By ‘odds’ I mean opposed.
It often felt like we didn’t work for the same organisation, it felt like I was being prevented from achieving my objectives by people who carried no delivery risk, had no financial delegation and appeared to simply want to impose a set of meaningless processes and rules on me.
It got to the point where I would bring in external procurement consultants in order to overcome what I perceived was a complete lack of understanding and at times nothing short of an obstacle that needed to be removed to make progress and deliver. I wondered why it was that those people in procurement simply didn’t understand, why did they appear to lack the capability to help, why were so many ideas, initiatives and proposals met with a resounding no.
Now I work in a procurement function and a progressive one at that. It is a team that strives to broaden the focus from the more traditional cost input measures to think about how will we can realise the intended value from suppliers and also how we will achieve the business outcomes we initially envisaged.
I talk regularly to other procurement professionals as well as those who work with the function and I hear the same thing over and over that there is a lack of trust, concern over hidden agendas and an apparent reluctance to change.
So, as an outsider, my view is that it’s unlikely that the areas that procurement want to contribute to and have the ability to add considerable value to will be offered to it.
For that to change, those in the function need to think carefully about their perspective on the following:
The business – I’ve read so much about this. I wonder if there’s a parallel between where technology was a few years ago, when ‘techies’ couldn’t talk the language of business, leading to misunderstanding and a general mistrust. I wonder whether procurement professionals now talk in a ‘techie’ language that is not understood or appreciated by the business.
The service – In my opinion, procurement has a vital role to play, but in my previous roles the function was seen as authoritative, but why not offer procurement consultancy as a service?
Expert to Leader – I know there’s a huge transition needed to go from an expert to leader and not everyone makes it. The lead software engineer who gets promoted to lead the software development division shouldn’t really still be the lead software engineer. Their focus needs to change from delivering themselves into running a business and organising others to deliver. They need to engage with their stakeholders in a very different way. It should be the same in procurement.
David Wyer works in strategic supplier development at the British Broadcasting Corporations (BBC)
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.