Following the success of our recent Procurement Battle Plan roundtable we are delighted to welcome a guest post from Gail Pyrah, Senior Partner at GPA Procurement LLP. In this article Gail highlights the changes that have taken place in procurement and the dangers of relying wholly on technology to manage procurement processes.
The recent ‘Procurement Battle Plan’ roundtable discussion involving a number of procurement professionals, consultants and experts from a range of businesses, that I attended, was both topical and interesting. We were asked to discuss whether procurement could find new and innovative ways to drive out cost in today’s challenging economic environment.
Listening to the various contributions tabled, it was very easy for me to look back and wonder just how much procurement has really changed and then to consider where it can go. More than 25 years ago - during my early days in the Pharma sector - an enlightened and visionary senior executive brought in a team of Procurement Consultants to manage and overhaul the existing ‘Purchasing department’. It was considered to be transactional and an opportunity had been spotted to apply some of the new thinking that had emerged from the automotive and engineering sectors.
Working alongside the Procurement Consultants, I was exposed to a very different view of what purchasing should be about. They very successfully ‘transformed’ procurement but we didn’t call it transformation. We recruited experienced professionals and graduates who had the skills and the capability to help shape procurement and deliver ‘bottom line savings’.
To do this successfully, they not only needed to be technically competent but they also needed to be first-class ‘relationship managers’. It was a hugely successful time for the organisation and the new procurement team started to deliver game-changing results, internationally.
Three to four years later, and by now in the recruitment business that I founded, I was invited to help run a procurement recruitment programme for a global corporation, four times bigger than before, and again determined to incorporate many of the above principles. The imperative was to identify candidates who understood:
Working closely with the client, I recruited a team of procurement professionals that helped to change the face of procurement and who were also considered to be ‘best-in-class’.
Two key factors contributed to the success of the programme – (i) all candidates had to be technically competent procurement professionals; however, they also needed that extra dimension - they needed to be first-class relationship management individuals in order to sell and gain buy in from key stakeholders and (ii) a critical success factor of the campaign was the continuous engagement and dialogue throughout the process between the procurement client and me.
The resounding success of that programme has been replicated many times over, as the years have passed. But is a new factor entering the equation, for the future?
What does the vision for procurement look like?
I see many familiar challenges – tough trading conditions; risk associated with supply; compliance and control and the dreaded cost word! I also consider it to be fundamental for clients to know how much they spend and to have category management or similar key processes, in place.
Technology will continue to have a significant role to play and who knows, high-volume recruitment may become totally automated. However, there can be no substitute for expert judgement and informed decision-making. Any hiring strategy should be about using the right tool for the right job and to know where the tool best fits with the overall process and strategy.
Sadly, in today’s recruitment market we now spend much of our time communicating with clients through platforms, instead of talking to procurement and we are often faced with the operators of those platforms interpreting their use far too literally, sometimes at the expense of good recruitment practice!
Recruiting the right person for the job is a business critical decision in any functional discipline, none more so than procurement. The advent and prevalence of technology in procurement is a fantastic new development - though to support the process; not to drive it!
Knowing how best to use the technology without losing sight of the importance of human interaction and dialogue with expert providers, particularly in the HR and professional services categories, will be key to the success of this next generation of procurement professionals.
GPA Procurement LLP is one of the UK’s leading Procurement Recruitment companies offering Executive Search, Managed Advertised campaigns or Contingency based solutions.
We’re grateful to Gail for her expert contribution. Please feel free to post your comments in response below.