On the back of securing the Best Procurement Employer at the Procurement Leaders Awards, we invite Mars’ Julie Digby to explain why the function deserves a place in the boardroom and offer some key pointers on how to achieve it.
Despite its obvious strategic importance, procurement has often struggled to secure a seat at the boardroom table, competing against other functions like sales, marketing and R&D, which have risen up the business ladder in recent times.
Procurement is increasingly playing the role of a strategic advisor, not just a buyer. This is particularly true at Mars, where procurement has the broader title of ’commercial’ to reflect this. Business growth and corporate reputation are key tenets of responsibility for Mars sourcing managers.
For Mars, procurement has shaped business operations for over 100 years. The company’s founder understood the important role that procurers could play, securing its boardroom level position. Since then, Mars has continued to work hard to ensure procurement keeps its seat at the table and has some key learnings to share.
Ensuring that our procurement teams are part of the decision-making process is key to ensuring the team can forge this role and help shape initiatives and subsequent delivery of commitments. We need to ensure that we have the strategic capabilities in our team and that we recruit for breadth, for strategic thinking and that we provide the ongoing training and coaching to develop business talent and not just functional procurement experts.
Here a some of the key ideas we’ve come across:
Relationship management - Relationships are crucial to procurement’s success, particularly with suppliers, but internal audiences should not be overlooked. At Mars, 97% of spend goes through the procurement function, but this is not always the case with other businesses. Through building relationships with internal stakeholders, procurement leaders can raise the profile of the function and its role, demonstrating the value that can be delivered.
Stakeholder management relies on excellent relationship building skills. We select our sourcing managers not for functional depth but for their soft skills. We provide coaching and training to enhance these skills and focus as much on this as we do working on functional and category excellence.
Be prepared to make difficult decisions - As part of procurement’s move to strategic advisors, we must all be confident in our ability to make difficult decisions. At Mars, we are prepared to make choices based on what is best for our business and suppliers. We train and prepare ourselves to offer the business bold strategic choices, which can support game changing capabilities or cost reduction.
Stand up and be heard - It is all of our responsibility to shout about exactly what procurement does – to champion the successes and dispel misconceptions. At Mars, procurement has always had an equal voice alongside key ‘traditional’ business functions such as finance and marketing.
But, we can always do more. Highlighting the value of procurement is not only crucial with internal stakeholders, but also to engage future talent and put the wider industry firmly on the business map. We need to use the sales skills in ourselves to ensure we maintain the profile for our delivery.
Julie joined the procurement team in Mars 20 years ago and her experience spans all areas of the function, including driving step change in price risk management, quality management, responsible sourcing and procurement talent development. She began her career at the company within sales, having completed Mars’ graduate programme.