If you don’t treat procurement and business competencies the same, your team won’t either

Procurement Leaders recently launched a revamped version of its competency model, a tool designed for members to assess their teams against critical procurement capabilities. As the function seeks to assume a more prominent role within the business, procurement professionals need to hone their existing skills while also developing new ones. With a new assessment methodology, an updated list of future-facing competencies and intuitive visualisations, the revised competency model directly supports executives’ upskilling plans.

Below PLQ explores three insights gleaned from the design of the updated tool.

1. Treat ‘procurement’ and ‘business’ competencies as one and the same

Procurement Leaders’ research shows that most CPOs launch transformation projects to better align with their stakeholders and deepen the function’s business impact. Yet many competency models seen by Procurement Leaders create a distinction between those competencies associated with procurement and those associated with being a more able businessperson.

To make that distinction is a mistake. If performance assessments are designed in such a way, then it should come as no surprise if employees behave as if ’procurement’ and ’the business’ are two different things. It is far better to encourage teams to think of the procurement persona as one that embodies the skills and qualities of a more well rounded executive.

The latest iteration of Procurement Leaders’ competency model does just that by grouping individual competencies under high level capability areas, which treat these key competencies as one and the same.

Those high level groupings are as follows:

  1. Shaping the business
  2. Leadership
  3. Delivering value
  4. Protecting value
  5. Data and analytics

2. Build new capabilities to achieve your vision

There was a time when procurement’s main contribution to the business was delivering incremental cost savings. No longer. Ask any forward thinking procurement executive about their vision for the function and see how many of them mention cost savings – it won’t be many. Today, CPOs see procurement’s value proposition in terms of becoming a more meaningful partner within the organisation that delivers value beyond savings in areas such as innovation, revenue-generation and sustainability, and much more besides, according to Procurement Leaders’ CPO challenger guide 2019.

Where CPOs’ replacements will come from

Source: Procurement Leaders CPO challenger guide 2019

For procurement chiefs to realise those ambitions, they must think hard about the people and capabilities they have today, compared with what they need in the future. Tomorrow’s procurement team must be customer-focused, technologically savvy, environmentally aware, adept at working with data, a strategic thinker, entrepreneurial as well as a creative storyteller. The competency model covers all those skills and more, allowing users to assess their teams against next-generation capabilities and identify the gaps that need filling.

3. It’s more a question of attributes than skills

A new feature of the revised tool is the connection it makes between competencies and the requisite skills and attributes. In general, the tool treats a competency as an activity or situation in which somebody will apply those skills or attributes. For example, the supplier-enabled innovation management competency requires creativity, business and commercial acumen and strategic thinking, as well as the qualities of curiosity and entrepreneurialism. The point of making that connection was to demonstrate clearly the context in which individuals will apply their skills and attributes.

It became clear when assembling the competency model that, in the aggregate, the competent procurement professional embodies more attributes than she or he does skills. Overall, the tool identifies the need for 31 of the former and 21 of the latter. Leadership is weighted particularly heavily in favour of attributes, with effective leaders having to display 21 of those compared to just 11 skills.


Character traits may be harder to verify in candidates and develop in employees, but there are tools and techniques out there that can help. The first challenge leaders face is understanding what they have versus what they need. That is where Procurement Leaders’ competency model will help.