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The skills that matter

May 5, 2011

I have just emerged from chairing a panel at Corporate United‘s ‘Synergy’ conference. The panel members – a CIO, Deputy General Counsel and head of Marketing – were giving their perspectives on the role and value of Procurement.

The good news – for those in Procurement – is that these three executives were united in their view that Procurement has ‘a really bright future’. And in general, each of them feels that their Procurement staff are doing a good job. But that doesn’t mean we can just sit back and relax. Their comments indicated the need for on-going change and improvement, in particular the fact that Procurement must get away from its image of being driven by price and process. A clear message was that ‘policing’ is a role for technology; the critical value for the practiitoner must be to enable the business through their knowledge and personal skills.

So what are those skills, what is it that an executive looks for when they see a high-value procurement professional?

Top of the list was project management. Each of the executives made the point that they are busy and often cannot pay attention to the implementation or execution of plans and strategies. So they need a Procurement function that they can rely on to execute and keep them informed. They also agreed on the importance of quantitative analysis, to support decision-making. Business acumen came high on the list, in particular the ability to look beyond price and advise on the optimum cost decisions and alternatives. Given the speed of change in business conditions, ensuring on-going understanding of what the business needs and also understanding of goals are critical to the quality and timeliness of advice and support.

“I need Procurement to help me stay on top of things”, commented one executive. “I don’t have enough time”. Agreeing with this, the head of Marketing said that for him, a major value is resourcefulness – finding answers, bringing ideas. “I want to see professionals who are applying intelligence to business problems and opportunities, not pen pushers and paper-chasers bound by their own process”. The Legal executive agreed strongly with this. “If Procurement want to be trusted, if they want authority, they must make my job easier. I want to see evidence that they question things in an intelligent way and bring value to the process. For example, if there is a statement of work, I don’t expect to have them just acting as a communication channel – I want to see that they have analyzed it, understood the business goals and made sure that the terms or the responsibilities are going to work, to protect our company and its goals”.

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