Top tips: Combining procurement technology with soft skills

Gurjit Degun
5 March 2014

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5 March 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Using technology to make procurement decisions must be complemented with human rationale, according to Ginny Warr, head of procurement at Sovereign Housing.

Speaking at the eWorld Purchasing & Supply conference in London yesterday, Warr told delegates that procurement professionals need to focus on the process both before and after awarding a contract and not just on the tendering process.

“Typically when I’ve seen requirement specifications written by IT departments where they haven’t had the support from procurement, they’re often really not fit for purpose to go to the market so it’s really worth investing time there,” said Warr.

“Likewise, at the end of the process during the post-contract, make sure you really seek the last piece of value out of that contract. This is where suppliers are getting much smarter. They realise now that procurement teams have got the tendering and sourcing process really sewn up, so you need to make sure you’re operating smartly at both ends.”

Warr listed her top tips for getting the basics right when mixing technology with soft skills:

The right people. When recruiting, Warr said she looks for: stakeholder engagement skills, category knowledge, questioning skills, project management skills, change management skills, creative thinking, commercial intuition and analytical skills.

A common operating model. “It’s quite tedious but it’s really worthwhile because if you’re moving to any form of automation, it will be much more cost effective if you have a common operating model rather than designing your technology around different variables,” said Warr. “That’s a salesman’s dream. Keep regional differences as thin as you can.”

An understanding of your spend. “I don’t know how any procurement team can operate without this,” explained Warr. “[At Sovereign we have now] embraced technology to do that and the human element of procurement is using that to drive informed decisions.”

Segmented supplier base. “Look to segment your supplier base so they get different treatment depending on their segment,” said Warr. Sovereign splits its suppliers into platinum, gold, silver and bronze categories.

A training programme. The company offers a training programme for its 1,200 employees to help them understand the basics of procurement. “It includes some really basic things like please don’t tell your supplier what your budget is,” said Warr.

A supplier performance management programme. “Most organisations performance manage their staff, why wouldn’t you do that to your suppliers?” Warr explained. “We have a conference every year where our suppliers come to meet every single member of our executive team and the supplier feedback is phenomenal.”

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