Building and maintaining positive relationships should be the main focus for procurement professionals, according to Tecom executive director of procurement Cory Thwaites.
Speaking on a panel about talent management and development at the CIPS Middle East Conference in Dubai, Thwaites said: “For me, relationships are the most important thing in procurement. If you don’t like dealing with suppliers and stakeholders, there’s no point doing process.”
He added: “If people don’t like you, they won’t want to work with you, so your focus needs to be on building relationships. Don’t be the ‘procurement police’. Have policies and procedures, but you need to be flexible and open to breaking them.”
Thwaites also advised procurement professionals to “try and think of solutions, instead of giving the business problems” and to “first of all, cut out the jargon”.
“To get the business to work with us, we need to speak and understand their language,” he said. “Understand what they are buying and don’t confuse them with jargon.”
Lisa Campbell, procurement director of the University of Sharjah, echoed the importance of softer skills.
“It’s very important to understand that soft skills are more important than hard skills the majority of the time,” she said. “Communication can make something a success, or make projects fail. You need to understand how to interact with people inside and outside [your organisation] and you need to understand yourself and how colleagues see you.”
Jason Brown, SVP procurement of GEMS Education, said procurement especially needed to understand the “emotional mechanics behind change”.
“Change doesn’t just happen,” he said. “You have to live it. If a policy has changed, you need to live that policy. If there’s no business class travel, you can’t then travel business class.”