Like many concepts, agile is understood in a multitude of different ways – especially in procurement.
Some executives merely borrow some of the project management ideas linked to agility, whereas others use the concept to redefine their entire function.
At a recent event in Sydney, Australia, for example, Procurement Leaders heard how the function at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is looking to use agility to help accelerate the way in which it operates in a highly regulated industry.
Agility is capturing the imagination of procurement chiefs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, with many deploying it in their own functions.
At a recent Procurement Leaders breakfast briefing in Singapore to celebrate the launch of Procurement Leaders’ new APAC office, we heard how some functions are agile methodology to solve tricky problems while others are using it to engineer creative answers to long-term issues.
Procurement chiefs explained they were bringing agile solutions to cross-functional or cross-geographic issues that have defied resolution for some time. The creative approach to such problems engendered by agile multi-disciplinary prescriptions often lend themselves to a quicker resolution, they explained.
“Agile,” one CPO noted, “is often about getting old processes out of the way and ensuring smart people are in the room to innovate.”
Most procurement chiefs in the room agreed agile can be the basis for a new culture both within the function and in business.
A focus on a business solution to a business problem is often difficult to perceive in procurement, where a buyer’s vision is clouded by policies, frameworks and legacy ideas. This can be just as frustrating for those within the function as those outside of it.
Agile thinking creates a fresh perspective for teams to review old problems. It is through this transformation in perspective that new solutions can be found.
That said, for those who use it, agile is not a panacea, it needs to be adapted to the unique situation that your company and function is in.
“If you used agile for everything, then you would slow your company to a standstill,” quipped one CPO.
For more transactional activities and repetitive purchases, more established methodologies such as ’lean procurement’ may provide a more suitable bedrock for the function.
All the talk about agility is really about how procurement teams are looking to improve their impact and value. Many procurement chiefs at the briefing expressed dissatisfaction with a blinkered focus on cost savings and yearned for more diverse metrics on innovation, supplier relationship management and other value-adding activities. Although many assume that procurement functions in Asia-Pacific lags behind those in North America and Europe, there is an energy and appetite to really push the envelope.
We are looking forward to hosting more of these events in the region and learning more about what the community is doing to drive their functions and their businesses forward.
Procurement Leaders are extending their presence in the Asia Pacific region following the opening of a new office in Singapore. If you would like to attend one of executive briefings or hear more from the team in Singapore, contact Jonathan Webb on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us at our APAC Congress in November to learn more the latest global trends in technology, talent and business models that will increase procurement’s contribution to business growth.
This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.