“There’s a symbiotic relationship in some ways between talent, risk and relationships,” Theresa Rynard, general manager of Rio Tinto’s global sourcing for services told me last week down the line from Singapore.
Rynard is going to be part of a panel at the Procurement Leaders Singapore Forum next month looking at those three topics, so I took the opportunity to ask her which was the most important for her business at the moment. Of course, it’s not as simple as that.
“A huge focus recently has been risk,” she explained. “But of course you need good talent to manage risk and as our industry is growing that puts its own pressures on relationships and you need the people and the strategies to keep up.
“We’ve had to look closely at where the business is growing and ask what are the relationship strategies and what are the supply strategies to mitigate and prepare for those risks. It’s not one area, it’s a cycle you have to think about.”
So the question I asked, and the one I suspect that in one form or another will be on the minds of many of those gathering at the forum in September - how do you get the people to do that?
Rynard credited the problem as one of the most important any business faces in the region – and not just in procurement. However, she was adamant that it had been an area where her function had been making breakthroughs.
“That’s one of the things we’re doing well at – looking broadly and focusing on skills and aptitude rather than simply looking for those who have procurement experience. I’ve just established a new global services team and part of that has been taking a more creative approach in how we approach the market. In line with that I’ve recruited consultants, sales people, people with a finance background – but overall people who’ve shown they’re smart and ambitious and able to think creatively and strategically.”
Parts of that solution will ring true no matter where you are, but parts are interestingly individual to the region. Speak to a few procurement professionals in Asia and you quickly learn how important this battleground is – they’re competing for top talent with other functions, other locations and other businesses and winning that fight is a huge boon for the development of the function.
“There’s a strong community of procurement experience in, say, the UK. Here in Singapore procurement is less developed, it’s a younger profession and there are many potential employers looking to drive success so there’s tough competition for a small group of talented individuals,” Rynard explains.
Getting to the top of the pile has to be a primary concern for businesses expanding in to Eastern markets, just as it is for those that have been there for years. Those that are doing it well need to be a lesson to those that aren’t.
Rynard will part of a line-up of top procurement professionals discussing key issues at the Singapore Forum on 14th September.