What to do in your first 100 days as CPO

posted by Francis Churchill
6 March 2017

The first 100 days in a new procurement role should be used to “pull information” from stakeholders, the top buyer at Aspen Group has said.

Buyers who are starting as head of procurement in a new organisation should avoid over-selling themselves or the function when first meeting new stakeholders, said Michael Pearson, group head of procurement at insurance firm Aspen. Instead use those initial interactions to learn about the culture of the business they’ve just entered.

“I strongly believe that you make a much better impression if you listen,” he said. “We’re passionate about the benefit procurement can bring to an organisation, we want to talk about all the good things we’ve done elsewhere, [but] that probably isn’t really what the stakeholders want to hear.

“I think you’ll make a much better impression if you pull from them information about their concerns, about their department, about their business.”

Speaking at eWorld in London, Pearson said listening to stakeholders can help buyers understand the culture of an organisaion they are new to. “The reason that’s so important is because I really strongly believe that the success of you and your team [depends on] how closely aligned you are to the cause of the organisation.”

Procurement at Aspen “wasn’t quite greenfield” when Pearson joined, but he said: “No matter what stage of maturity [a firm is] at, clearly we’re expected to transform things.”

“Very quickly I developed a mantra as to what procurement existed for. It was very simple, it’s about optimising cost, minimising risk, maximising contract performance,” said Pearson, who added that language was important.

“I used the word optimising spend rather than minimising spend, which probably would have upset stakeholders who were a little bit nervous that [the changes to procurement] was all about cost cutting,” he said.

Pearson also taught stakeholders what procurement’s responsibilities were, and how the function worked to find savings. “From day one I was being asked where the savings were going to come from. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I didn’t handle it as well as I could have done, and one of the reasons is I assumed a certain level of understanding and maturity of what cost savings and procurement was all about.”

Pearson – who said buyers shouldn't underestimate the power of visuals when communicating concepts  – used a diagram of a simple sourcing cycle to outline what the function “does or doesn’t do” in a presentation to stakeholders. He oulined a number of levers of procurement in another presentation to the top table to explain how the function makes savings.

“I brought it all to life by honing it on a couple of categories,” he said. For example, he explained to stakeholders when procuring legal services, “We could consolidate the vast number of legal firms we use, we don’t have to always use Magic Circle firms, we could use more provincial firms, we could make sure work is being done by associates, not partners.

“For the first time people looked at those levers and had it brought to life.”

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