Has procurement really gone global? .

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In this guest post we invite Giles Breault, head of the Procurement Leaders advisory board and global head of productivity and business services at Novartis, to reflect on what a being a global procurement executive really means.  


Going global means much more for today's businesses than having travelled to a lot of different countries.


Over the past couple of decades, I have been asked numerous times: what makes a best-in-class (substitute “world-class,” “best-of-breed”, “state-of-the-art”, and so on) global procurement organisation?


I often speak on this topic and have gathered all sorts of sound bites that describe some portion of what it means to be truly global. I would also posit that our own description of what it means to be global has morphed as we have evolutionarily edged closer and closer to the ideal without actually understanding what we are evolving towards.


Not so many years ago, being global was not only a leap into unfamiliar waters, but also a near technological impossibility. I vaguely remember when I gained my first “global” title, I was travelling with a 4kg laptop that had something called a gas-plasma display that connected to nothing, (not even an internal network) and a tone-modem handset that I had to manually affix to a hotel phone just to be able to send a fax.


In its earliest form, global procurement was the ability of organisations to conduct business with firms that were beyond their own national borders, a feat that was considerably more difficult than it is today. In those formative years when we first sought out how to drive greater value (however you define it) through some sort of conjoined action, the basic ability to communicate with peers over facts in order to establish a baseline for action, was the very definition of being “global”.


Later, we collectively understood that we needed to speak over information that was harmonised, consistent and that organisational objectives had to be aligned in order to form a plausible course of action. as we have progressed, we have confirmed that the governance model for global organisations is just as important as the systems and data that support them.


Perhaps, most importantly, we have recognised that developing people with the right mix of skills that allows them to conduct business across geographies and cultures are the fundamental sinews that give form and shape to our global approach.


So what does it mean to be global today? Few of us can claim that we have completed the journey and the ultimate destination is still being defined.


Certainly however, it is about organisations that think about their markets, from suppliers through to customers, as global markets, who use their teams (wherever they are) to find and develop suppliers worldwide, and then have the strength of governance to drive and channel activity to access the best value. all of which, must be enabled by a culturally diverse and capable team.


Giles Breault is head of the Procurement Leaders advisory board and global head of productivity and business services at Novartis. 


Note: the post is the author's opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of Novartis.


This post is an extract from an article that appears in Issue 44 of Procurement Leaders Magazine

Giles Breault
Posted by Giles Breault

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