The dinosaur that is procurement: Get relevant to your business or become extinct


Procurement’s very existence is in trouble. The function must be part of the whole negotiation process, not only to protect the company from making deals that do not benefit the firm but also ensure they are sensible, cordial and well-balanced – and both supplier and buyer realize the outcomes they both want to achieve. Sadly, this is so not the case with so many pivotal business deals today.

The fact of the matter is, for some bizarre reason, most senior executives just don’t care about them, and they seem to show up when the deal is already made and “promises” have been made that are hard to break. All that transpires is both the senior executives from the supplier and the buyer end up frustrated – and feelings of mistrust can really break down what was a blossoming partnership with a very “transactional” experience.

The problem really is two-fold – executives doing the buying probably don’t even think about involving procurement, as they see no value in their contribution – or have no awareness of any potential value. They probably never even thought about involving them. In many cases, they never even intended to include them and procurement only inserted itself when they were asked to make the payment. Which means procurement’s role has been reduced merely to a last minute attempt to sabotage a deal; otherwise, its existence in the company is rendered completely useless, and you might as well phase it out (or replace with some software).

Who’s to blame when procurement comes along to mess everything up? Yourself!

To all executives out there who like to spend company money on things:

Ignoring procurement in the buying process nearly always ends in tears for everyone. I often feel the amount of time, negative energy and lost money tied to the procurement experience is simply not worth the investment of having them in the first place. So stop acting like they don’t exist and start communicating.

This means getting procurement into the loop regarding your intentions, once you know what it is you want to invest company money in. Train your sales people that procurement exists for a reason and that they are not the boogie man from the outset. The reason it often goes wrong at the end of a sales cycle is that procurement people feel they are not participating in the process and need to make last minute changes to the contract (which is usual to try and squeeze the supplier on price, which just pisses everyone off).

When procurement people are feeling ignored, all they will try and do is derail the buying process, as opposed to helping shepherd it through and add some value (or at least a few sensible suggestions) along the way. Procurement needs to feel it has a reason to exist, like any other business function. With HR, we often know it adds no “strategic” value in the hiring process, but at least it will run the background checks, the references, sort out the payroll, etc. At least HR has a role in the company, whereas procurement is in danger of extinction if its contribution is worthless. So while procurement still exists, you must involve it, or it will make everything unravel down the road.

To Procurement Executives:

Be a business relationship manager, not a transactional negotiator. Get off your backsides and serve the people who pay for your salary. Yes, we are a team, but sending these emails such as “No more discount or we need a minimum of 20% margin”, or “We only accept 90 days payment”, do not help at all. You’ve made it clear in the time your profession exists that you are not business people and care nothing for “customer service” or “employee experience”. The fact you feel you are the police of the people that call themselves “sales” is a fairy tale. You should get up and try to understand what your firm is doing, the clients you are serving and the history that exists between your company and your customers. Only looking at making a personal gain is not a solution for anyone but yourself. If you like to have war stories, join the army. Don’t pull this nonsense on the work floor.

Bottom line: Communicating with each other is the first step to getting business done

We all need to live with certain professions within a process. Some we like, some we just have to tolerate. But we can make it nice along the way to work more closely together and stop pretending we do not exist or need each other. If you listen, you will learn, if you keep doing what you always do, you keep getting what you always had. We have enough islands in this world, let us not fight internal battles all the time, but let us communicate and not harm the clients and eventually our business.

Posted in : Design Thinking, Outsourcing Heros, Procurement and Supply Chain


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