Buyers call for openness as purchasing mystique remains

1 November 2007
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01 November 2007 | Andy Allen

A culture of mystery and secrecy within the procurement profession remains, according to the latest SM100 poll.

The survey of 100 buyers found 41 per cent think procurement wants to maintain an air of secrecy about what the function involves. Some 37 per cent disagreed, and 22 per cent of buyers said this only happened sometimes.

But most agreed being secretive about the purchasing process was short-sighted and causes problems with peers and suppliers. Many buyers linked professionalism with openness about their role. "I can't believe procurement professionals would ever want to be secretive about what they do," said Robin Hunt, director of procurement at the University of Surrey. "We need a culture of mutual trust if we are to truly add value. We should not be afraid of helping our customers and suppliers learn more about the procurement process."

Susan Davis, supply and inventory manager at Rexel Senate Electrical Supplies, agreed: "Suppliers who understand how we work are more able to respond to our needs and requirements. So what if good procedures are copied by competitors? They are only a part of what makes a good purchaser."

There were a number of reasons put forward to explain buyer mystique. "When I ask about this I am told 'we don't want to give them too much information as we could be doing ourselves out of a job'," says Natalie Frost, senior sourcing manager at Fujitsu. "This is complete nonsense."

Some claimed buyers who put up barriers tend to be those who don't want to be scrutinised, or who are not adding any value to their business. Others highlighted the lack of confidence in the profession and a wish to dress it up in complex language and jargon.

While honouring confidentiality remained a concern for some buyers, they said it should not conflict with being transparent.

"There is a need to maintain your negotiating position, which could be potentially undermined by disclosing too much," added one respondent. "As with everything there is a balance."


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