Working together as a business is the best way forward

David Noble, Group CEO, Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply
7 October 2016

A focus on influence over ownership will be critical for the future success of procurement and supply in a changing environment, says CIPS CEO David Noble.

It is always a pleasure to join CIPS Supply Management Award celebrations across the globe. These nights acknowledge the achievements and massive amounts of hard work procurement teams have put in over the past year. And with each event that passes, the profession’s voice, reach and influence grows further. So thank you and well done!

We don’t often stop to reflect on our successes and it can feel quite uncomfortable telling others about how well we are performing; so it’s refreshing to see so many people in one room prepared to stand up and say: “I did a great job.” Most recently that particular room was the Great Room at London’s Grosvenor Hotel  where 1,000 guests gathered to celebrate, shout about and share their success stories.

And it’s not just those who triumphed on the night I want to congratulate. All who entered, especially those who made it on to the shortlist, are helping to raise the game and profile of this profession.

A recurring trend through this year’s entries was procurement teams working more collaboratively with other business functions. Technology has enabled everyone to be a ‘buyer’ and procurement teams can be left battling to gain influence over spend in some areas. Marketing, legal and HR services have often been ‘off limits’ to procurement, but we are starting to see procurement take a more consultative approach working as a business partner and being less hung up on ownership and more content with playing a strategic partnership role (p26).

It’s probably just as well that the penny has dropped. We shouldn’t be fighting for a land grab on owning spend areas, but appreciating the different skill sets that both procurement and our respective business partners can bring to the table. As the structure and ways of working in business moves towards more of a transdisciplinary approach it is time we dropped our guard and started to play nicely. 

It made me reflect on a piece of research CIPS did in collaboration with the IPA and ISBA in 2006 called Magic and Logic. The research examined the buyer and supplier relationships between marketing professionals and design agencies and what role procurement played.

Is procurement best placed to evaluate design pitches from agencies? Perhaps not. The value we bring is working with marketing managers to build some process and ‘logic’ into the procurement to ensure it’s fair, ethical, resilient and contractually sound. This is what is core to procurement and should remain the heartland of professionally qualified procurement teams.

Magic and Logic remains very relevant today and not just for creative services but across all our internal relationships. I can’t help but wonder if negotiations for The Great British Bake Off show (p20) might have gone differently if procurement had a guiding hand in the strategy.

If procurement and supply professionals are to move into a more collaborative way of working and gain influence then they must learn to sell their value and their right to be a critical part of the team. This is why it’s important to talk about our successes and become storytellers, spreading the word about the value created on previous projects – a message backed by this year’s winners (p17). 

Procurement must learn to communicate more effectively using the language of the business and less of our own jargon. Emotional intelligence and soft skills combined with broader business acumen will win the hearts and minds of colleagues from other business functions and increase our sphere of influence.  

Perhaps it’s not a natural fit for all procurement professionals but it’s time to hone our soft skills, work collaboratively and get your success stories out there. I hope to be congratulating you at next year’s awards.

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