Unum focuses on supplier engagement to transform procurement

Gurjit Degun
5 August 2014

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5 August 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Employee benefits and insurance provider Unum is transforming procurement by strengthening its relationship with suppliers to encourage innovation.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with SM, Unum’s vice president of global procurement William Bagley, explained the procurement team is in its second year of a five-year change project and aims to be “the customer of choice” with suppliers.

“We are creating a procurement organisation that is a trusted business partner to the business,” he said. “So not only looking at saving money but how we can bring the capabilities of the supply base into our organisation so that we can provide a better product to our customers.”

Bagley added he wanted procurement to be a “source of value and innovation through our suppliers for our businesses”. He said the team is working to improve its relationship with suppliers, and build trust to encourage innovation. He said procurement professionals need to “be clear on what they are trying to accomplish when engaging with suppliers”.

“It isn’t very complicated, it isn’t a 12-step programme," he added. "[It is about] how do you get a supplier to provide their knowledge and their smartest people to work with Unum to solve our problems.

“It isn’t something that is magical. It’s about having the right relationship [based on trust], and working with fewer suppliers.”

Bagley has also set up a global supplier awards programme. “It recognises that we are not in it for ourselves,” he said. “You have to acknowledge the people that make you successful.”

As well as introducing new training and capabilities for the procurement team, and making use of business process outsourcing, Bagley has put together a procurement governance board. This consists of four senior leaders in the business including the chief financial officer and the head of the global services organisation.

“We’ve got a very senior level team to provide guidance and cultural input,” said Bagley, who has been at the company for two years. “They played a strong role in terms of supporting the initiatives and helping to navigate myself and the procurement organisation some of the hurdles, culture-wise (helping staff through the new way of working).

“You’re looking at them as an advisory board. All major transformations have to start off with the right leaders supporting you.”

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