How to push the boundaries in category management

category management skills

Traditional sourcing skills enable a business to meet goals. But, meeting goals is not good enough anymore. Sourcing professionals need the following expertise if they want their procurement activities to be seen as adding value and mitigating risk.


Supplier management: Being able to manage suppliers a key skill for every category manager. They are responsible for the fundamental aspects of the relationship; managing the supply of products and services to their organisation. They need to know every detail of supplier due diligence by ensuring they meet fundamental requirements such as financial viability and adhere to certifications and qualifications. Without the ability to manage suppliers product quality will suffer and the supply chain will not function at its most efficient.


Commercial skills with a legal and finance perspective: A lack of commercial skills within an organisation can lead to increased maverick spend. Many complex projects go beyond simple price negotiations. It requires a holistic approach to pricing models and variables, risk management and implications for total cost of ownership. Even though legal will have the final say on the contract, category managers are in the best position to ensure any contract covers business needs. Similarly, a deal might look favourable on the basis of upfront costs, however, it is important for the category manager to take all aspects into consideration with an overall financial perspective.


Project management: Category managers need to possess overall programme and stakeholder management skills, especially when managing complex projects involving multiple stakeholder groups. The skills required vary from managing stakeholder expectations to working cross-functionally and across different cultures as well as ensuring completion of projects within the stipulated time and budget. Project management skills go a long way in winning the trust of and making an impact on business partners.


In-depth domain knowledge: Companies often make the mistake of thinking that any person with a sourcing background should be able to source any category. This is the wrong line of thinking, especially if a company is looking to strategise procurement and take it to the next level. Category managers need to understand the nuances of each individual category and they need to show the business that that is where they can add value. Having deep domain knowledge brings insightful discussions with stakeholders, building trust even further.


Zero-based budgeting: Procurement is as much a demand management function as it is a supply management function. With the emphasis on zero-based budgeting across many organisations, category managers need to have open discussions with business stakeholders on their needs and should be able to challenge every requirement with logical reasoning. Otherwise they will leave a lot of money on the table because they did not optimise their requirements.


Being a digital native: Rapid digitisation of procurement means category managers must become digital natives. Category managers need to be aware of rapid changes in technologies and always be in the hunt to understand how it can improve the way the procurement works. Robotic process automation and 3D printing are just two of the technologies that have the potential to really shape procurement and category managers can help introduce them and drive value.


By adopting the skills outlined above, category managers can truly help a business hit its targets by becoming more of a proactive and trusted expert and advisor.


Aditya Desai is a manager – consulting at GEP


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.

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