The pace of change in the business world means many function heads are looking at how they can reorganise their teams to enable them to be more agile and responsive to changing demands both internally and externally. This change is affecting procurement as much as it is any other function and many procurement chiefs are looking at what they can do to try and build agility into the very foundations of their teams.
Phil Thomas, managing director, head of global sourcing at Barclays, is one of those executives who has taken the challenge on since he joined the financial services giant back in October 2017.
“The challenge is that, in most organisations, individual members of the procurement team are responsible for solely running deals from start to finish in a serial manner, and this requires them having a breadth of skills,” he says.
This, he suggests, creates a team that, while being adept in many areas, lacks individuals with their own specialisms. It is, he says, also a setup that fails to support true agility because deals are dependent on one person. If that person leaves, takes time off or changes roles, it makes it incredibly tricky for others to take over and push the deal forward.
As part of this Thomas is looking to introduce a more collaborative model of working in which a core team of individuals works together on deals and where different parts of the process are divided up based on the different skill sets that exist within that group.
It is an approach Thomas learnt when he was strategic outsourcing consultant solution manager at IBM, but is more commonly referred to as a ‘scrum’.
“We are creating small agile teams, called ‘pods’, to split the sourcing work up in a different way,” he says.
“It’s about getting the right resources involved with the right deals at the right time. So, this means the process-orientated people will work on the process side of the deal, while the people with the sourcing skills will focus on taking the opportunity to the market, negotiations, and contract management and so on.”
Thomas says the first step to building these pods, as he calls them, has been to examine the categories and subcategories of spend as well as analysing existing skillsets within the team. He is then working to establish pods of around five or six individuals of varying skills and seniority levels.
For example, one pod will have a mix of senior and junior sourcing specialists as well as process analysts and task-orientated people.
But, rather than each pod running one deal from start to finish, they will work on multiple deals collectively at any one time, passing it from one to the next. To ensure complete collaboration across all the pods, there are also daily meetings to ensure alignment of priorities and discussion around potential roadblocks.
To guarantee a diverse mix of skills, the members of each pod won’t be restricted by country. Thomas says he is looking at bringing in process analysts based in India.
“In some cases, bringing process analysts in India into the pod as members is necessary because we need the skills they can offer,” he explains.
Thomas will have the complete pod structure set up in early 2018 so that procurement and the wider organisation can start reaping the benefits of this approach.
There are multiple benefits this structure will bring to procurement and the business, says Thomas, particularly around developing skills within the team.
“This structure promotes individual specialisms and helps build a clearer career path,” he says.
Thomas also believes it will increase job satisfaction as people spend time on the activities they enjoy and at which they excel.
Beyond that, Thomas hopes it will deliver the agility that the functions and business needs to thrive in the modern environment.
“We can better protect the business from changes or unpredictable occurrences, and reduce cycle times by doing this,” Thomas explains.
It is a structure that Thomas believes will particularly suit the company given the focus within the industry on third-party compliance and risk management, as well as building quality assurance.