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In this, the first blog in a new and exclusive series from IBM procurement expert Nathalie Fekete, she argues that procurement needs to get ahead of three pressing issues.
The end of January is often the point when resolutions are broken and good intentions fall by the wayside. So it's time to draw a line: what are the challenges that will shape procurement's commitment to be better in 2016?
For me, the three areas that still require the most attention from us as a community are technology & analytics, skills and social media. Our ability to find a way to give attention to and solve these challenges will be crucial in 2016. So let's look at those in a little more depth…
Technology & Analytics
A central problem for functions keen to leverage technology is that of adoption, by the internal stakeholders and also by procurement team itself.
Procurement often does a good job of putting together a stronger business case for integrating new technology (to get the sponsorship or green light from the board), increasingly emphasising the ‘must-have' aspect versus the previous position of ‘technology as a nice-to-have'. The area where it tends to be less successful is introducing the technology to stakeholders and gaining their consensus on why the technology and implied change will improve the way they are working.
The biggest reason for failure, in my opinion, is that the procurement team often doesn't take the time to present a ‘tailor-made' business case for its own team, and a specific one for its stakeholders. These two groups of people have very different expectations and objectives, and if they can't link the new technology to their own benefits, why would they be willing to change for something new and different?
Rewarding people for their adoption and support and clearly communicating the benefits on an individual level could be key to supporting the barriers to change associated with the introduction of new technology.
The procurement function has evolved towards a more customer-centric approach where data insight and analytics are growing in influence; as of today there is still a lot to do to allow procurement professionals to become more comfortable with those two approaches.
This may have been very high up the priority list in 2015, but there can't be any let up as we look for a change in the profile of both the buyers and the required skills. Whilst core procurement competencies become a minimum requirement, soft skills such as customer facing, and methodical aptitudes pertaining to data analysis are being recognized as critical elements of procurement professionals' profile.
To date, very few organisations have fully implemented a complete training plan to enhance the profile of existing team members with this specific new skill set; in 2016, procurement teams could and should work to prioritise reflecting these new competencies.
We often hear that we need to be more active on social media, but here and now, how many procurement executives are active users on Twitter and other channels?
Although measures have improved, linking social activity back to ROI is difficult. But when we open up the discussion to the broader impact on brand reputation for example, or on the long-term benefit, it's clear that social media is no longer simply a ‘nice-to-have'.
First of all, it has a growing influence on risk mitigation and supply chain transparency for CPOs given the speed at which information now flows amongst consumers on social channels.
Secondly, taking the principle of leading by example, CPOs have a responsibility to share their thoughts and views externally, again with the ultimate objective to promote the procurement function externally.
As Procurement tries to attract new talent and new skills which are also probably very "desirable" to other functions... why would these valuable candidates go more into procurement rather than in another sector that is perceived to be more trendy such as marketing for example?
In this respect, social media represents a ripe opportunity to boost the profile and brand image of a function which is only growing in influence, and not least to branch out to a growing talent pool of ‘millennials' and ambitious professionals.
In the coming weeks, I will develop a series of blogs, where I will share my view around supplier management, team collaboration & organisational change or skills and talent Management, and other topics that are very high on the 2016 priority list for the procurement function.
Stay tuned for this monthly series on Procurement Leaders.
Nathalie Fekete is European leader for procurement transformation at IBM.
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.