Future perfect

6 December 2011
As this is my last column, I’ve decided to offer advice on a couple of things I believe will be important in the future. First – seize the day. This is our showcase opportunity. With the global economy in turmoil, most companies are focusing onoptimising spend and getting more for every dollar, pound and euro. This is where we can demonstrate our subject matter expertise, our knowledge of the market and our change management skills. Our organisations need us to be the best that we can be. Don’t be silent on the contribution we can make: be clear about how we measure success and shout about the value we drive. Remember, value is more than just money – in the words of Benjamin Franklin: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” Second – the need to keep developing procurement expertise. Most organisations pay attention to how to develop their talent pipelines, but talent can be narrow in definition and relevant to only the chosen few. You can have more impact by developing key capabilities across your procurement organisation; it just takes a greater level of awareness and commitment from all the leaders in the function. The payback is an engaged, motivated workforce. Finally – stay true to your values. In an ever-changing world, we need to have some constants. Being ethical in all our dealings is key, but values go much further. Values are what make us authentic as leaders and enable others to build lasting relationships with us based on trust and the knowledge we are worthwhile partners. Looking back I have really enjoyed my time as a columnist, firstly as a roving reporter from India and then as a commentator on current affairs. I have been pleasantly surprised how many people have mentioned their enjoyment of the column. My time in India proved a fertile ground for the new and interesting: whether it was the amazing stories of the Mumbai dabbawallahs, the challenges inherent within the Indian space programme or new trends in outsourcing, there was always something to write about. Back in the UK, I needed to find a job. This episode gave rise to columns on how to prepare for changing jobs – real-life imitating art. The past two years have been the most interesting from a writing perspective. It wasn’t until I was looking for the procurement angle to topical issues that I appreciated how much was relevant. It is so easy to become focused on your category or industry. When I began looking at events through a different lens, it seemed examples of procurement gone wrong were all around, warnings about poor process and inadequate controls prevailed. This lens has convinced me that procurement is not only relevant to today’s world, but is an essential skill if organisations are going to confidently deal with the challenges they face. ☛ Sam Covell is head of IS procurement at AstraZeneca (samcovell@hotmail.com)
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