Take sequential steps and build credibility advises Harrison
Take sequential steps and build credibility advises Harrison

We must equip procurement professionals to be leaders

posted by Malcolm Harrison
7 September 2018

One month into the job, CIPS group CEO Malcolm Harrison reflects on the challenges ahead for the profession and how CIPS can help it face the future with confidence

These are exciting times for procurement, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to the role of group CEO at CIPS. The demands on today’s procurement professionals are much broader and more complex than when I started out in the profession more than 30 years ago. This brings both opportunities and challenges for procurement, and while technical skills are well understood, the skills for successful procurement leadership have much in common with those of a business unit leader. There is work to do on how we best equip professionals at all levels to be great leaders now, as well as leaders of procurement in the future.

Whether it’s modern slavery, Brexit strategies or cyber security, business leaders are turning to procurement for the answers. Complex risks such as these make it even more important for us to take a holistic supply chain view, rather than just a procurement one. 

The issue with long-term outsourcing of specialist services by the public sector is a perfect example of this, where shortcomings were not only with the sourcing, but more importantly at the contract management stage. Multifaceted contracts of this nature require more flexible sourcing and disciplined contract management strategies that can deal with variations, incorporate regular reviews, and include contract amendments where necessary. Thorough contract management is the only sure way to ensure delivery of maximum value.

Having the right people in the right roles is critical to enhancing procurement’s ability to face the challenges ahead. The recently launched Chartered Status helps demonstrate to your teams, employers and suppliers your commitment to staying current and keeping your skills finely tuned. Strong commercial acumen and effective communication skills are just two areas where procurement can be better. I would urge you all to commit to the Chartered Status membership grade.

Organisations that have strong procurement people, particularly those that have worked in multiple companies, industries and functions, and can take a broad business perspective, are more successful at aligning procurement with their business. They will talk knowledgeably to marketing, sales or operations in the language that these internal customers of procurement understand.

I have established procurement teams from scratch as well as overhauling existing teams. My advice is to focus on change management and communication skills, take sequential steps, build credibility, build the capabilities of your team, and go as fast as you are capable of going. There are no limits to procurement’s role in the long term.

At the Crown Commercial Service, where I was CEO, we defined our standard service, embedded a revised operating model, and put the right people in place to ensure that our commercial solutions were fit for purpose for our customers. This is how we built credibility with our customers.

I first came across CIPS back in 1993 when I was tasked with setting up and running the procurement function for Bass Brewers. I was given six months to get to know the company, the culture and find out what others were doing. So, I got in touch with CIPS and was invited down to Easton House for a visit. I have to say I came away mightily disappointed. It was in 2016, when the late David Noble encouraged me back, that I realised just how much things have improved at CIPS. I am pleased to say that the CIPS we see today is so much better equipped to support both individuals and organisations at every stage of their journey.  

I am extremely passionate about this profession and proud to be at the helm here at CIPS to support you on your journeys. I look forward to meeting many of you at the CIPS Supply Management Awards on 12 September, the CIPS UK Conference on 31 October and many more of you at future events.