Future of Procurement Inspiration

What’s Next?

Written by Gordon Donovan

When I say what’s next it means that I’m ready to move onto other things. So, What’s Next?

J.Bartlett – In the Shadow of 2 Gunmen. West Wing Season 2

The title of this article is meant to be both provocative and provoking. Some would say it is too soon, we need to get what we do now right before we start thinking of what we do next. Rather, I take inspiration from Mathew McConoughey. The link is there but I’m going to repeat parts of it.

And to my hero, that’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I have a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who is your hero?”. And I said I don’t know I gotta think about that, give me a couple of weeks. I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “Who’s your hero?” And so I thought about it and I said you know who it is, it’s me in 10 years.

So I turn 25, 10 years later that same person comes to me and goes “so are you a hero?” And I was like, not even close. No, no, no. She said “Why?” I said because my hero is me at 35. So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to beat my hero.

Procurement is my hero. Procurement in 10 years is my chase. For us to have something to chase we need to think about the next 10 years, and when we get there, it’s the next 10 after that. It gives us goals, it gives us vision, it gives us something to chase.

Next year marks 30 years in procurement and supply chain for me. I think back to that time in 1988 and think about the role of procurement and how it has evolved and the visionaries who set out to try and change the way that procurement carried itself and was viewed both as a profession generally and the organizations in which it operates.

We harnessed EDI to help to increase speed and efficiency (which in 1988 meant a fax machine).

We began to harness the computer (thanks Windows 95) to help us further automate.

We redefined the role. We considered the words tactical and strategic. We realized that strategy adds more value and therefore began to utilize and challenge technology to automate the tactical to allow us to be strategic.

We are now using more technology to help drive compliance.

We have moved from the back office to being considered valuable and potentially even a business partner to consult with.

We have moved from being a purchase order house to a strategic sorcerer.

What’s next?

Let’s change the world. That’s what’s next. I want procurement to think about how it changes the world and fixes problems.

  • It doesn’t do it by running an RFP.
  • It doesn’t do it by being the rule police.
  • It does it by automating that which no longer adds value.
  • It does it by considering what it wants to keep and what it wants others to do.

Put simply, if we want to chase this vision, then we need to make the time to do it.

Simplify, Automate, Outsource.

All to create this precious, special commodity. Time. Time to pursue procurement with a purpose.

That’s the purpose of technology. To help bring solutions for procurement to create time, so that these leaders and organizations can think about what’s next.

The future of procurement for me:

  • It’s not about doing more with less or the same
  • It’s about doing something different altogether
  • It’s not about getting a seat at some table
  • It’s about building relationships that can innovate to solve a problem
  • It’s not about Category Management or SRM
  • It’s about discovery. The discovery of suppliers, capability, customers, & possibilities.

Procurement stands on the precipice of greatness. It can choose the path that it wants. You get to choose.  So, what do you want to do: Create the time to solve bigger problems, or carry on sourcing?

I believe that procurement can stimulate and cause a massive amount of change. More than many functions of a business as we span the entire supply chain.

We can drive relationships and partnerships with suppliers and buyers and create a network that can innovate to solve problems. We can identify new sources of supply from all over the world, or in our own backyard. We can work with the world’s biggest companies, or small social enterprises. We can create value and build trust.

The visionaries of the future walk amongst us today. They get to stand on the shoulders of the giants of the past to chase where we need to go.

  • There are slaves in our supply chain. Let’s start there.
  • There is an energy crisis waiting to happen. Let’s start there.
  • Our suppliers want to help our organizations solve its problems. Let’s start there.

Let’s start asking…..

What’s Next?

Photo screenshot from The West Wing, (c) NBC, Warner Bros.

About the author

Gordon Donovan

Gordon has worked in procurement and supply chain since 1988 and brings over 29 years of procurement knowledge and expertise gained in a variety of industries around the world