Procurement could use some PR

17 November 2011

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17 November 2011 | Adam Leach

In order to create new opportunities and increase engagement from stakeholders procurement must promote itself better, a panel of senior buyers concluded.

The point was made at a roundtable debate to discuss the initial findings of The CPO Agenda KPMG Procurement Functional Excellence Benchmarking project. The survey, which will be published in March, found the procurement function is viewed as leading, or an area of excellence, in only a few companies. The results found it is well-placed to deliver standard objectives, but struggling to grasp more strategic areas of responsibility and spend.

Jason Smith, who leads the procurement advisory team at KPMG, said: “I get a sense that we are not actually marketing the function well enough.”

He suggested that while procurement has become more important during the years of recession, it is still known by other departments as the team that can save money. “Outside of that there is almost a PR job needed to promote how and what procurement does to deliver strategic value to the business,” he said. 

Ian Sexton, director of contracts and procurement at Network Rail, has already taken steps to promote the work of purchasing. Members of the executive leadership team were impressed at the team’s achievements when he presented them, he said. “I took the opportunity to put a slide up and said, ‘This is what we have done over the past five years’, and a number of people came up to me and said, ‘We had no idea. We didn’t know that you had done all that. We didn’t realise what it was like before. Most of us weren’t here five years ago’.”

Andrew Hill, procurement director at Severn Trent Water, is also looking to improve the way his team communicates its work, with a focus on limiting the use of purchasing jargon. He said: “I have seen many change programmes fail because of the language used, as the broader business and end users don’t get what procurement is about. Procurement uses buzz words like, ‘strategic sourcing’ and ‘SRM’ and while purchasing teams may get it, others won’t.”

The need for procurement to raise its profile was raised at the CIPS 2011 Conference. During his keynote speech, Ellis Watson managing director of newspapers at publisher DC Thomson and former CEO of Simon Cowell’s company SYCO told buyers to ‘get out there’. Encouraging buyers to be more passionate, he said: “If you can instil in your colleagues and more importantly your suppliers that you are looking to work with passionate partners, you will reap the benefits. Passion is the main ingredient.”


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