Procurement as a differentiator – Part 1

“In 2020, company leadership will likely look at procurement not as a group that focuses on sourcing raw materials, goods and services, but rather as one that sources ideas. Creativity will involve engaging stakeholders in new, innovative ways” -Deloitte, Charting the Course, Why Procurement must transform itself by 2020
Over the recent years, the procurement profession has started going through a transformation from a clerically oriented function to becoming a strategic contributor, embracing supply chain management principles.
Organisations slowly but surely have started investing in procurement, acknowledging the importance of strategic cost management.

So, what would be the next step Procurement should aim for? Moving beyond Cost Cutting, can Procurement become a core differentiator for every Organization? I believe the answer is yes. Let’s have a closer look.

Royce Blair - Starfish - Different

PROCUREMENT DEFINITIONS

Discussing Procurement, there is a variety of different elements to it: Direct, Indirect, Sourcing, Category Management, Contract Management, Supplier Relationship Management, Procurement Excellence, the list goes on.

In the traditional way of looking at Procurement (see below definition) it can be argued that not all these elements can be considered core.

However, if we expand our definition of Procurement from the more traditional approach of:

Procurement is “the overarching function that describes the activities and processes to acquire goods and services involving establishment of fundamental requirements, market research and vendor evaluation and negotiation of contracts including the purchasing activities required to order and receive goods” – purchasinginsight

to also engulf activities such as:

“make-versus-buy decisions, outsourcing and in-sourcing, supply chain management, inter-firm communication, strategy formulation, relationship management, performance assessment, inter-firm networking and innovation scanning” (Cousins P. et al, 2008, Strategic Supply Management)

then it becomes apparent that Procurement has the potential, if viewed strategically, to effectively link customer demand with supplier innovation and thus, change the way we view Procurement’s core elements.

In a practical sense though how Procurement fits in organizational Strategy and why should it be there?

Some thoughts are summarized below:

A) THE LINK BETWEEN CUSTOMER DEMAND AND SUPPLIER INNOVATION

a) Firstly, it is evident that Procurement is the function that forms the contract framework and the supplier relationship.

Hence, provided that the business outlook, targets and organizational vision allows, Procurement is responsible for defining the scope and setting the framework within which the supplier relationship will evolve.

In recent times, the requirement for suppliers to work with the business into strategic relationships (especially, discussing categories of high spend and/or high risk) is slowly becoming the norm.

Contract clauses that require continuous improvement and innovation as part of the contract are implemented more and more.

b) Procurement is also the function that has direct contact with new suppliers.

The business is well aware of what the current suppliers can do (although there may some gaps especially when the contract doesn’t promote sharing of new ideas and incentives for continuous improvement). However, the business does not know what it doesn’t know.

Hence, unless Procurement through its contacts re-assesses the supplier market and re-evaluates of what can be done e.g. what the suppliers’ new processes are and how innovation affects the market landscape, then the fast-paced market space we operate in may constitute the business activities too expensive and/or irrelevant by today’s standards.

It thus becomes evident that it would be very useful, if not essential, for the Organization to make Procurement the focal point of collective knowledge between internal functions and external sources.

Procurement can thus, be placed as the liaison between R&D, Sales and Operations on one hand and Suppliers on the others.

Furthermore, in pursuit of establishing the “fundamental requirements” or specifications for Sourcing the right products and services, Procurement has to assess supplier capabilities and can and should collect and communicate market intelligence back to the business in order for best practices and product development to be fine-tuned.

 

In the next two posts (part 2 and part 3) of this three part series, I will explore how Procurement’s potential through could reinforce the basic Strategies of Organizational differentiation and what this differentiation could look like.

 

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Image courtesy of Royce Bair / www.flickr.com

 

About George Vrakas
George Vrakas (MBA, CCMP, CMILT) is highly reputed in the fields of Contract and Relationship Management as well as, Services Procurement and Logistics with extensive experience in Contract Management, Procurement and Supply Chain. George is passionate about Contract Management, Procurement, Innovation, Continuous Improvement, Exploring trends that will shape the Future, Team Development and the Modernisation and Automation of processes. George is a member of IACCM. George is the author of www.georgevrakas.com blog and has presented on Globalisation, Procurement and Continuous Improvement at various venues and Universities in Victoria, Australia.

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