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Stay ahead of the insights and discussions taking place at Procurement Leaders Zurich Forum on October 15th: read the live blog here.
For business and the procurement function in particular, the scenery is changing at an unprecedented rate, both within the function and in the world in general. Sit still and you are likely to find yourself left behind by your competitors and suppliers.
Making the function move faster is however a tricky business. Not only are there thousands of suppliers feeding goods and services into a company, the processes within a business itself are frequently complex – not to mention the fact that buyers tend to be resistant to change, like dropping suppliers, particularly when those suppliers are providing complex goods or services.
Frédéric Sebban, CPO at Alstom Grid and chairman of the 2014 Procurement Leaders Zurich Forum is a man who has built a reputation on bringing functions up to speed and transforming their capabilities. He told delegates at the Dolder Grand that that when he came into his role the organisation was too complex and there were too many procedures in place. Speed and simplicity were watchwords. They still are.
He said that one of his first tasks was to simplify the structure and processes that surround procurement to help make the company and his procurement function more responsive to the increasing demands that are now being placed upon them.
Sebban said that he also focused on getting the right people with the right skills into the function because if you don’t have those people who can work in this way it doesn’t matter what procedures you have in place, they simply won’t be able to keep up.
He said that it was only when he had fixed the procedures and got the right team in place that he started to look at the product and where the team might be able to make savings here. In that sense, the quest for simplicity started with the straightforward task of boiling down procurement to its basic values and building a team that could deliver to those without a hugely complex framework.
While this may run against the traditional grain, it is only by thinking and acting quickly that procurement will be able to continue delivering and driving itself forward. Plenty of delegates might recognise the challenge of a cumbersome, unresponsive structure, and how difficult it is to bring in elements of simplicity, particularly in a global organisation. Still, there is a sense that a function built to last is one that can be nimble enough to adapt and smart enough to sense which way to head to deliver value to the organisation.
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