The future of the procurement function

2015 FLiP Ambassador Talks Future Of The Procurement Function

Procurious interviews 2015 FLiP Ambassador – Ryan Kirgan.

The future of the procurement function

Ryan Kirgan is a Portfolio Category Manager at Downer, a leading provider of services to customers in markets including Transportation, Mining, Energy and Industrial Engineering, Utilities, Communications and Facilities.

At the recent Future Leaders in Procurement (FLiP) event, Ryan was awarded the position of FLiP Ambassador for 2015. Procurious recently caught up with Ryan to discuss his ambassadorship, the FLiP event and the future of the procurement function. 

Procurious asks: Ryan firstly, congratulations on being recognised as the FLiP (Future Leaders in Procurement) 2015 ambassador and carrying the flag for the next generation of procurement leaders. Could you give us some background into the FLiP group and what it hopes to achieve?

Ryan answers: The FliP group is a collection of young leaders in the procurement function. Our meetings are held in conjunction with The Faculty’s CPO Forum. When we meet, we undertake an intensive program of discussions, presentations and networking with the ultimate goal of developing the next generation of procurement leaders and furthering the procurement profession.

FLiP put on a fantastic series of events. Through the relationship with The Faculty, we are able to attract a good number of truly outstanding speakers. This, and the chance to network with our peers in other businesses, presents a fantastic opportunity to develop our skills not only as procurement professionals, but also as leaders.

Procurious: How have the FLiP events helped develop you as a leader within your business?

Ryan: The most critical link I think, in developing the functions future leaders has been the access FLiP has granted us all to senior procurement leaders.

We have been given backstage access to a huge number of influential CPOs. All of these leaders have been very approachable and accessible. They’ve opened up on discussions and events that are impacting the function at the moment. To have access to this level of seniority has been huge. We’ve all been able to benefit from people who have already had long and successful careers in procurement.

What has been really great is that rather than discussing the technical capabilities of procurement staff, which most other conferences do, FLiP is pitched much more around soft skills with a younger audience in mind. That’s something I haven’t come across at other conferences. The program is really tailored to what we’re doing as young procurement professionals.

Procurious: Aside from the speakers and CPO access, were there any other intangibles you were able to take away from the event?

Ryan: The event was fantastic for market intelligence. When you put people who are making similar decisions in the same room you’re bound to learn something.

It was a great opportunity to understand my suppliers, not just from a procurement perspective, but also more broadly around what they are trying to achieve as a company. That sort of insight is priceless.

The general openness and willingness to impart knowledge and help out as much as possible is fantastic. It’s not like you’re making a cold call and asking for insight. It is senior level procurement professionals who are there with a genuine interest in helping out and developing the function.

Obviously, networking is what you make of it, but I’ve had great engagements off the back of the conference. A few days after the event, another delegate contacted me to discuss fleet management, a category that my organisation sources well. I was happy to share my experiences. A few weeks later my help was reciprocated when the person I spoke to was able to assist me with some queries I had about supplier relationship management.

Procurious: Have you been able to transfer any of the learnings from the FLiP conference into your job at Downer?

Ryan: At the end of the conference Gordon Donovan (Principal Consultant at The Faculty at the time) challenged us by saying that he would be calling each attendee 50 days after the conference to see what changes we’ve made based on what we took away from the conference.

This is something that I got down to right away. The day I got back to the office, I called a meeting with the corporate affairs manager. We spoke a lot about alignment with corporate objectives at the conference and I wanted to ensure my activities were contributing directly towards our corporate success.

Downer has recently refreshed its corporate identity. This has involved a shift towards a greater customer focus. Our tagline is “relationships creating success”.

During this discussion I found myself asking, “how does my work as a procurement professional align to the corporate vision?” I quickly realised that I had a fairly deep understanding of our relationships with our top 100 suppliers, however knew little about our engagement with all but a handful of our key customers. This seemed ridiculous.

I grabbed all the guys in the team and went through a process of aligning each of our category plans to the corporate vision and to our end customers. I also initiated our team’s ownership of managing revenue data reporting in addition to spend data; all of which helps bolster our presence as commercial leaders within the company. Unless I’d gone to the conference, I don’t think we would have gone through that process.

Procurious: As part of your ambassadorship you were given the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion at The Faculty CPO Forum. Can you tell us about that experience?

Ryan: It was a great opportunity to speak in front of such an experienced procurement audience. I feel that those sorts of opportunities are a valuable part of our professional development as leaders.

To sit alongside three highly experienced CPOs and to come off the stage and be told that I didn’t seem out of place up there was very humbling and flattering.

We spoke about ensuring alignment of procurement activities to the wider business. It was reassuring to see that across industries, procurement teams are taking on similar programs and facing similar challenges. As I mentioned earlier, this initiative is something that I acted on as soon as I got back to the office.

Procurious: At Procurious we’re passionate about social media and its role in the development of the procurement function. What have been your experiences as a procurement professional on social media?

Ryan: The opportunities that lie within social media are truly eye opening. I think the biggest challenge is staying on top of everything. The speed that things are changing is so rapid.

Social media is becoming standard practice for procurement; it’s no longer a fringe activity. We need to leverage our relationships with suppliers, co-workers and colleagues and social media is the most effective way to do this.

Social media gives us access to knowledge sharing and best practice thinking from across the globe. All of this builds out our capability as professionals.

Access to sites like Procurious means that good ideas don’t remain hidden for very long. If one person asks a question, you’ll get 30 people responding. There is so much knowledge and wisdom out there and Procurious is connecting all of that.

At Downer, we use Yammer as well and I’d be one of our most active Yammer users. I’ve established a group to discuss our fleet services; the 80 stakeholders across the business for fleet services are in this group. It’s a brilliant way for us educate and connect with the stakeholders. We get great engagement on there.

Procurious: Thank you for taking the time to speak with Procurious and again, congratulations on your ambassadorship for 2015. Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

Ryan: I’d like to thank FLiP and The Faculty for the opportunity they’ve given me. The exposure to all of The Faculty’s programs has given an insight into just how switched on they are. Having programs that develop procurement people at each stage of their professional development is brilliant. They are great advocates for the profession.