Increasing procurement's prominence

11 January 2012
Challenges in the global economy mean public and private sector organisations are putting a relentless focus on cost efficiencies. This has placed the procurement function in many businesses in the spotlight as a source of expertise to deliver cost savings. This has raised the profile of procurement professionals, but is this new status permanent or is it a flash in the pan? We must use the current attention the profession is receiving to cement our business credentials in the minds of political and business leaders. While not ignoring the criticality of the savings agenda, we have to display our abilities as the potential drivers of overall business effectiveness that delivers sustainable productivity and competitiveness benefits, not just temporary savings. Procurement must also seek to achieve prominence in a broader range of business activities such as innovation delivery, facilitating a cross-functional approach to strategy, execution across the value chain from suppliers to customers and continuous improvement. Worryingly, when I speak to members of our profession, I still hear too much of what I consider to be a myopic view of procurement that is usually based on reducing cost. Is this because we are comfortable with this position and, in spite of our protestations we don’t have the confidence to raise our heads above the parapet and embrace the once in a generation opportunity to influence and shape the direction of our businesses? Some may point to the numbers of governments and major corporations that exalt the importance with which they hold the profession, but more than 95 per cent of organisations are SMEs. These organisations are not only vital to the resurgence of the economy, but often lag behind with their approach to procurement. It is in this community the majority of procurement activity is done, therefore it is reasonable to deduce that it is the sector where most procurement professionals are employed. So we have to facilitate the communication of the potential strategic power of procurement among the SME community. If we are to believe that procurement and marketing are two sides of the same coin, we must use the current attention to make this a broad-based reality. If we fail to take this opportunity we may always be the bridesmaids, never the bride. ☛ Learie Attzs is cheif operating officer of Folde Design.
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