Telling it like it is

8 October 2013
I was lucky last week to be in the audience for one of the final public speaking engagements of Paula Gildert in her role as CIPS President. Always one to provoke a discussion, it was easy to see why she’d been invited to be CIPS’ senior ambassador for the past year – and why she’s been such a hit. Procurement chiefs from across Europe attending the Global Business Events conference were told to look themselves in the mirror every morning and say: “I am a business person.” If you just see yourself as working in procurement, she said, you’re standing 
in a lesser role than you deserve. The Novartis global head of development strategic sourcing is not interested in lesser roles for her profession. “Procurement has so much more to offer than delivering savings. You can support the objectives of the chief executive in so many ways. You sit across the whole business so you have a better vision than any CEO. You’re in deep! But you have to learn to take control of the conversation.” It’s not the whole answer, but, fellow speaker Jonas Olsson, VP group purchasing at Trelleborg, the Swedish industrial group, shared a clever way to highlight procurement’s importance to colleagues. His team all sport a specially designed logo on their shirts to identify themselves instantly, and every email they send bears it too. Recognition levels have shot up. Now, Marcel Proust can’t be a name that many procurement chiefs drop into conversation, but president Gildert reminded us of the great man’s observation: “The real voyage of discovery consists
not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” And, of course, branded shirts.   Pretension in purchasing Selling one’s virtues is all very well but 
are procurement folk sometimes guilty of 
over-intellectualising what they do? I only dare 
to make so bold because it was a subject on numerous people’s lips at the CPO Event 
bash. One practitioner said he was fed 
up with the overblown rhetoric that some procurement experts propound. We make 
a cross for our own backs if we get too 
high-falutin’, he said: either we’re promising 
too much, or baffling people with what sounds
like emperor’s new clothes. Just tell it as it is 
was the general consensus. Someone who could never be accused of intellectual pretentiousness is Jim Reed, director of procurement at Nottingham University, who delivered, without notes, a straight-from-the-heart, barnstorming presentation on how not to outsource. No one was left in any doubt that outsourcing needs an intelligent client, not someone who thinks giving someone else your problems is the way to solve them. “Remember, 
if things go wrong, it’s rarely just their fault.” His advice: insert a clause saying the outsourcer must present their exit/handover plan every year of the deal so if there was a problem the client knows how to take it back in-house. Keeps ’em 
on their toes, he chuckled. ☛ Andrew Pring is editor of Supply Management
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