Bean counters. It’s what the procurement function has been called for an age and is seemingly still popular in certain circles.
Scanning the newswires a few weeks ago I came across this headline: IKEA Unleashes Bean Counters For ’Procurement-Led’ Agency Review.
It didn’t get much more complimentary than that for the procurement function.
"‘Procurement-led.’ Perhaps the last thing any agency participating in an account review wants to hear," said the author before outlining his reasons why he wasn’t such a fan of procurement.
"Oh yes", he said "Numbers matter. Budgets matter. Efficiency matters. But should the ’who is the cheapest’ metric really lead an agency review, let alone anything? No, of course it shouldn’t. But more and more, it is. And it’s sad."
His article was referring to the decision by furniture giant IKEA to review the marketing agencies it uses, despite IKEA UK and Ireland marketing manager Peter Wright saying that the company continued to "work happily" with its current suppliers.
The author closed off by saying that "the bean counters now run the show".
There were two comments on this post, which showed both how far procurement has come and how far it still has to go.
"We created this when we told them how great the click-through rate on a certain ad was," said one.
"Wow. The implications that the author of this article makes about procurement are quite dated. Saying today’s marketing procurement professionals are completely focused on numbers is analogous to saying agencies are still focusing only on offline media," said another.
"Many of today’s procurement professionals actually come from the agency world. They focus on creating value for their stakeholders which many times include better services and not just cutting fees. This article is unbalanced, dated, and insulting to our profession. I recommend sitting down and talking to a marketing procurement professional next time before printing something like this," they added.
In years past the comments would have been completely negative about procurement, but it seems the function is making ground, changing these perceptions, despite the dated views of the author himself.
The only way that the function will change the minds of these stragglers is to keep doing what it has been doing, working with other functions and proving the value it can add over and over again. There is no other way.