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Do you have the right talent to deliver your procurement strategy?

60% of CPOs today are not confident of the capabilities and skills within their teams to deliver their procurement strategy. Is it because procurement strategies have become more challenging and thereby more difficult to achieve?

A recent survey amongst senior procurement leaders across the world indicated that over 60% of CPOs today are not confident of the capabilities and skills within their teams to deliver their procurement strategy. This is a drastic increase when compared to the 48% number returned by the same survey conducted two years ago!! A disturbing outcome and what does it tell you?

Is it because procurement strategies have become more challenging and thereby more difficult to achieve? Or the same strategies, but higher targets, or have the objectives of the procurement function changed and thereby different strategies to be applied requiring different skills and capabilities? Or is it that we, as a function, are still not able to attract the right talent? After all, working in Procurement is still not considered to be the "hottest" job in the world and requires to be spiced up when telling your friends you're working in it? Isn't it? It is something like being the fourth referee on the soccer field.

I tend to go for all of the above. For example, despite the fact that cost reduction is still considered to be the top priority for CPO's, the added value our function can bring is so much more. Controlling and managing risk, ensuring corporate social responsibility and/or bringing in new innovations are just some examples of that. These topics require to be embedded in the overall procurement strategy as well.

Now, let's take the two aspects of cost reduction and bringing in innovation separately and link them to the skill sets required of today's procurement team. Isn't there a potential conflict? Do you believe a supplier is still willing to bring you innovation if it has been continuously hammered by your procurement team to deliver year on year cost savings..? I think the majority of your suppliers won't. Hence, the way to approach your supply base requires modification and alternative strategies to be set. Being knowledgeable of these alternative strategies and more important being able to apply them in a consistent manner require different skills and capabilities of the team. Old school bullying your supplier doesn't work here.

What it comes down to is being able to attract and retain the right talent pool that has the skills to deliver the functions strategy. And this in my view is THE continuous challenge. How can we convince those ambitious eager beavers that working in procurement is actually challenging and really great fun? Maybe it is good to share my own experience as having majored in international marketing and in business science, I coincidently ended up in procurement and have been working in it since the last 19 years. Procurement has allowed me to travel around the world, exposed me to different cultures, enabled me to meet inspiring people, participate in a leadership program at International Institute for Management Development (IMD), taken me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow as a person.

Curious to get your views and thoughts on this!!


Absolutely hot topic. Anyone topmost challenge is talent. You hit it on the nail.

Truly remarkable write up Michel. You have hit nail on its' head and are bang on citing root causes from impractical goals to "hotness" quotient of procurement as profession. Incidentally my two blogs "Procurement's Trilemma" and "Why should sales get more attention than purchasing" complement your this blog. Keep writing and inspiring us.

Well thought of topic, Michel I tend to agree, I think the need of hour is to bring fresh thoughts in procurement function, it must become value oriented rather than just bottom line savings oriented, that way savings do not loose focus as it will remain major part of Value delivery but other aspects like innovation by supplier and evolving procurement technologies like Cognitive procurement take their due share.

Look forward for more from you on this page

Very nice Michel. In general, Procurement it isn't recognize as an interesting area to work.
But this is a really exciting area for those who like a dynamic environment.
We are responsible to align the different expectation from many stakeholders in a optimum solution. Suppliers are a key part of this and when we can create a good partnership with them, we can really have great results.
For those who like to be challenged, deal with different problems on regular basis and use your talent to transform business, procurement is the place to be.

Totally agree Michael with your view that "the way to approach your supply base requires modification and alternative strategies to be set". A good point to ponder upon here is that these alternative strategies are only 'known' to and can be 'executed' by a seasoned procurement practitioner, in which case it is more likely a question of how the CPO and his hiring team can best attract and retain these seasoned practitioners. The eager beavers will definitely follow suit and are well suited to be the on-ground executioners.
Would be great to read up more on these alternative strategies in your next blog.

You are spot on Michel, I really liked your point that though you are not a professional in sourcing & procurement by education but have been working, more importantly having fun in this role. This attitude is crucial to identifying the right talent for any organization.

I cant agree more. To add, disruptive models may plug some of the gaps
1. Moving Category Strategy roles from "in house" to a "third party managed model" for high spend / high complex categories
2. Staffing up cross functional experts for Category roles. For eg. Getting an IT consultant with experience on emerging IT trends to be your category manager instead of someone who has good experience in managing IT spend
3. Measuring Procurement success based on transformational value instead of savings

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