Everything we do at Art of Procurement is based on our own philosophy about what procurement can and should be. We call it the ‘art of the possible.’ It has nothing to do with purchasing transactions, manual data analysis, or penny pinching. Our vision for procurement is BIG. It is BOLD. And we are absolutely positive that it is the future reality for many teams and enterprises.
By now there is no way you haven’t heard about Mastermind LIVE Spring. Taking place on April 13th and 14th from 10am – 1pm ET, this is one of two flagship AOP community events. There is a lot of planning that goes into these gatherings – and each detail is a lot more purposeful than you might think. Each speaker, session, and angle is selected for its ability to help communicate, examine, or develop our vision for procurement.
If you’re interested in a ‘sneak peek,’ listen to this special edition podcast featuring Mastermind LIVE Spring MC Jan Griffiths, President & Founder, Gravitas Detroit.
The hardest part about seizing a vision and making it your own is that you have to be able to look beyond the short term reality of today. As Joe Adamski from ProcureAbility recently put it in a conversation with AOP, “While procurement might previously have attempted to perform ‘better,’ we now need to pivot and deliver a completely new scope of value.” Joe is absolutely right.
The journey we want to help procurement take is not a linear progression. If we allow ourselves to be bound by our current activities, the best we can do is deliver incremental improvements on historical savings, spend under management, supplier management, and contract management. Those activities are table stakes – and likely always will be. While improving how we manage them is important, the time has come to escape their bonds and start looking at top line growth.
When we talk to procurement leaders about their ability to deliver top line growth, we tend to hear one of these responses:
- Yup, we’re already doing that.
- Sure, but how are we going to get the C-suite to let us?
- We wish. We’re still trying to get finance to acknowledge our bottom line impact.
This journey is a unique one; no two companies will follow the same path. That said, each journey has some common elements.
Procurement can’t wait for permission.
As I’ve already mentioned, the typical procurement KPIs and performance metrics are table stakes: “the minimum offering it takes to be considered a player” according to the Brand Marketing Blog. If procurement expects to be considered a player, we have to deliver against the full list before expecting to take on anything bigger. Once we’ve reached that point however, there is no reason to wait any longer. If procurement uncovers an opportunity to add more value or contribute to revenue growth, we should just do it.
Turning this exciting idea into a tactical reality requires two things. 1. Procurement has to know what internal/external levers will impact the top line and 2. Have the skills required to pull those levers.
Learning more about how the company operates makes good sense whether procurement plans to expand their focus or not. It can be achieved in parallel to current ‘table stakes’ work by asking broader questions of internal stakeholders, reading external coverage of the company and industry as a whole, and reviewing each executive communication and press release with care. All of these activities will add to procurement’s workload, but consider that part of the ramp up to acting on the expanded insight.
Building or acquiring the skills needed to act on new opportunities may require some creativity if budget is not available. Start by auditing the team for all past experiences and skills areas. If someone has a desired capability in their background, make them the master of it and provide a forum for sharing. For skills that no one has, start by finding flexible training options or bringing in an expert for a few hours to share what they know.
Procurement has to be willing to make changes internally.
Back to the point about breaking free from the cycle of incremental improvements, if procurement is going to deliver a “completely new scope of value,” some tasks have to go away and others will be added in their place. Anyone that is resistant to this change is a threat to the whole group’s ability to evolve.
It is easy to picture an ‘old school’ procurement professional who doesn’t want to let go of their custom (indecipherable) spreadsheets. We all know this type of change has to be made. It gets harder when we have to detach from activities we like or from relationships we have formed to take over processes that feel unfamiliar or push us out of our comfort zone. That is why it is so critical for everyone to buy into the need for change. One person resisting a small change gives others on the team an excuse to brush over more disruptive or meaningful change. Next thing you know, everyone is still doing exactly the same things they were before the process began.
The best thing procurement can do under these circumstances is deal with the change as openly as possible. Each person’s changes may be different, but the process of accepting change is universal. If everyone goes through it in parallel, more change will be made and the changes will be more lasting.
Procurement will need constant inspiration to reach their final destination.
Hopefully it goes without saying that leading change is EXHAUSTING. Getting started is the hardest, but even once momentum is achieved, real change requires constant awareness and adjustment. If procurement is handling the process together as a team, that will help distribute the load, but there still has to be a process for injecting inspiration and enthusiasm while the journey is underway.
We aspire to provide that inspiration through the weekly AOP podcast, through our supportive Mastermind community, and through Mastermind LIVE Spring and Fall. Attendees will hear though leaders address the very challenges they are facing, offering a dual sense of urgency and renewal. Listening to other procurement executives may spark new ideas or provide validation that a growth-oriented procurement philosophy is difficult and entirely worth the effort.
Lastly, MastermindLIVE offers community. No one knows what you’re going through better than your fellow procurement professionals. Collaborate like it is your job – because in many cases, it is – and you’ll soon find yourself on your way towards having a BIG, BOLD procurement vision of your own and putting it into practice.