Procurement's transferable skills

Alan Hartley
posted by Alan Hartley
14 October 2015

Having recently joined Signature Living as its COO, and from watching fellow CPOs in other companies move on to much more significant roles, there has never been a greater opportunity to progress to become an MD, COO or even a CEO.

The skill set and behaviours we develop are so transferable and that, together with the knowledge we accumulate, differentiates us from the pack. It makes the modern procurement leader an extremely attractive candidate for senior roles in any business.

As procurement leaders, we don’t tend to be ‘lifers’ and often move between sectors. I have worked across nine since starting my career. My most recent move has been from uranium enricher Urenco to a property developer that specialises in boutique hotels. This has given me a great insight into what good looks like.

In addition, we tend to have extensive external networks and a willingness to share best practice and new thinking. The additional external component is our supply chain network, through which we seek to maximise mutual value by encouraging supplier-enabled innovation. When combined, this cumulative knowledge and connectivity is invaluable to any business. It enables us to challenge conventional thinking and in doing so, not just reshape the mindset of our own function, but that of other functional leaders and the business at large.

However, in most sectors, there is no business mandate to use procurement and nor in most of us is there the desire to have such a mandate. It is in our DNA to want to make a difference and in doing so, through our passion, ambition and knowledge make the business seek to work with us based on the significant value that can be unlocked. This requires us to be strong communicators and marketers to position procurement as a true business partner.

Our ability to develop, plan and execute transformation calls upon a host of desirable skills and competencies: from the analysis of data to challenging budgets, to the development of future-proof strategies and ability to lead and execute projects successfully.

In every senior procurement post I have held, I have led my teams through significant transformation, from the traditional transactional function of old to high-performing business partners. In doing so, it opened the door to both myself and members of my team to coach and lead other functional leaders through the transformation required within their area.

My advice to you is to set your ambitions high and put your drive and determination to good personal use.

Alan Hartley is chief operating officer at Signature Living and CIPS Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the Year

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