6 Ways Procurement Pros Can Be More Effective

87 per cent of organisations have faced a disruptive incident with suppliers in the last 2-3 years. How can we work in more effective ways?

Transforming into a strategic procurement organisation is not an easy journey. But there are a few obstacles that procurement teams should address sooner rather than later when thinking about how to be more effective in procurement. Here are 6 challenges to tackle today for success in the future:

1. Unproductive business relationships

The majority of CPOs rate their current business partnering effectiveness at less than 70 per cent with hopes of greater than 90 per cent in the future.  How can procurement become a better business partner? By creating a purchasing process that is the easiest, fastest and most affordable way for business partners to do their jobs. Users need what they need to do their jobs and they need those items quickly – and that’s all they care about. If you roll-out an e-procurement solution that is truly the easiest way for employees to request those goods and services within the natural course of their daily work, they’ll use the system and they will see the value that procurement is delivering. And when managers see how this process streamlines approvals and helps them better manage their budgets with real-time tracking, they’ll become champions of procurement as well.

2. Slow, inflexible approval workflows

Speaking over approvals, we’ve seen hundreds of approval workflows, each unique based on business maturity, locations, department structures and technologies. But a consistent challenge among many companies is that approval workflows often make purchasing more difficult for the requester. If requesters could make their purchases without needing to understand approvals or the inner workings of the procurement department, imagine how much easier it will be to get them spending in the preferred manner. Procurement professionals should look at ways to minimize the impact of approvals on the end-user. One way to do this is what we call “line item requisitioning.” This is when the approval workflow is configured so a single requisition/shopping cart can be split and sent through separate approval paths at the line item level. This means that items on the requisition that require fewer approvals get approved and POs are submitted, without being held up by other items that may take longer to get approved or require more reviews. And, the approvers only see the items on the request that pertain to them, making it quick and easy for them to sign-off on the items.

3. Supplier risk & fraud potential

87 per cent of organisations faced a disruptive incident with suppliers in the last 2-3 years. Risk inside of the supply chain remains a focus for procurement leaders. So, what’s the key to reducing risk? Transparency. The more transparency you have with suppliers, the more you can build up those relationships and better understand your suppliers’ needs. Perhaps you find out you have a key supplier that is struggling with cash flow needs – work with this business partner to understand their position and look at strategic payment programs that benefit both parties to mitigate that risk upfront. You can also leverage the wealth of data at your fingertips to pinpoint issues like this early on and better manage supplier data to prevent fraud.

4. Lack of spend visibility

If you want to know how to be more effective in procurement, I have two words for you:  spend visibility.

Every strategic procurement initiative starts with knowing how 100 per cent of the company money is being spent – not “some” of the money, all of it. 40 per cent of CPOs are focused on consolidating spend, but if they’re not seeing the full picture, those efforts will prove futile. Spend visibility – from both direct and indirect spending – allows CPOs to do what they do best, including: consolidating spend, rationalising the supply base, leveraging volume buying, negotiating better contracts, sourcing strategic suppliers and more. The data needed to support all of these activities is in the company spend data.

5. Manual reporting and analytics

65 per cent of organisations are accelerating investment in procurement-related analytics. But you really need to accomplish 2 things before making this investment: 1) Capture 100 per cent of financial data 2) Focus on data science within the procurement department. If you aren’t capturing 100 per cent of your data by on-boarding all your suppliers, achieving 100 per cent user adoption and processing 100 per cent of your invoices through the purchase-to-pay solution, your analytics tool won’t have the data needed to give you the right insight. And, once you have that data, you need someone who understands how to turn actionable insight into results – so make sure your procurement team is thinking about the skills they need for the future.

6. The talent gap related to technology

Related to the skills needed for the future is the talent gap procurement is experiencing, especially when it comes to technology. 87 per cent of CPOs believe talent is the single greatest driver of procurement performance, and yet organisations spend less than 1 per cent of their budget on equipping and training their procurement teams. Think about the tools, technology and training your procurement team needs to keep up with organisational transformation and deliver value, then start developing skills in those areas now – procurement is only going to get more digital. Check out my recent post on bridging the talent gap in procurement for other tips on attracting, hiring and developing new talent for this function.

If you’re questioning how to be more effective in procurement, overcoming these challenges will put you on the course for success. At Basware, we have a heritage in helping companies transform, so you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out– we’re here to help.

These stats are taken from Deloitte’s Global CPO Survey

PLEASE FIRE ME: I JUST CAN’T QUIT!

Stuck in a miserable, but well-paid, job you can’t afford to quit? Don’t get yourself into that position in the first place!

Philip H. “hates his life”. Those are his exact words. Specifically, he hates his all-consuming job. The work bores him and he no longer believes in his firm’s mission. The gruelling hours he puts in cost him time with his family that he can never recover.

Here’s the kicker: Phillip earns several million dollars a year heading a major office of a top-tier advisory firm. So, you might ask, why doesn’t he quit?

He’s says he can’t afford to.

There’s a big mortgage on a luxury apartment, and another on the beautiful beach house he and his wife bought two years ago. (“The summer weekends we spend there are the only thing that keep me sane,” he says.) Then there are the three kids—all enrolled at a private school. The eldest will start college in a year; the others will follow soon. Tallying up his obligations, Philip envies his Wall Street friends who earn ten times as much as he does.

A couple of days ago I mentioned this story to a well-known financial columnist. “I hear this all the time,” he said. “Lots of people moan about how miserable they are at work but they can’t see a way out.”
“Boo, hoo,” you might say. “I’d trade places with Philip in a heartbeat.” But would a huge income really make up for feeling horrible about your life?

You might think that you could put up with a few years of misery for the freedom it would buy you. You’d put a lot of money in the bank, and then walk away to do whatever you like: launch a small company, or spend the rest of your days lolling on the beach. Maybe you’d devote the rest of your life to doing good in the world. Whatever your goal, you’d collect your last paycheck and say, “Adios.”

It’s not that easy, though. You wouldn’t make a bundle starting out. You’d have to put in your time first. And when serious money began to come in, it would be tempting to reward yourself creature comforts for all the stresses you endure. The higher you climb the ladder, the harder it will be to leave. Then one day you’d turn around and find yourself in Philip’s unhappy shoes.

It might seem that I’m writing about a problem that affects only a small set of people. But I think Philip’s case illustrates issues that apply wherever you are now in the organisational hierarchy, and whether you love your job or loathe it.

Most work choices aren’t either/or

It’s late in the game for Philip, but assuming a different role in his firm might be rejuvenating. Going on sabbatical might set a great example for other colleagues. By framing his decision as stay-or-go, he’s missing other opportunities.

If you’re unhappy at the office, other people know it

Philip’s negativity must come out sideways. If he hates his own job, how can he be enthusiastic when a colleague lobbies for a new project? A big part of his job is evaluating other people’s performance. His attitude is bound to warp his judgement. (I also worry about what he’s like at home.)

Toughing things out is not a career plan

Somehow Philip drags himself to work every day. Maybe he takes pride in his perseverance. As they say, however, “persisting in the same behavior expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” The way things are headed, he risks getting pushed out by his peers. Maybe that’s his subconscious agenda, but it would be an ugly way to go.

Plan your end game

When you take on a job, set a date when it will be time to move on to something else. You can always revise it one way or another, but it’s usually better to leave a year early than a year too late.

The most important lesson of Philip’s story is not getting into his situation in the first place. If Philip had kept these precepts in mind, he would have been alert to his growing feelings of frustration. At an earlier point, a lateral move to another firm or an entirely different field might have been easier. And if he had allowed for the possibility that the job might get stale, he might not have saddled himself with so much debt. But by the time he realised he was on a treadmill, he had gone so far he felt he couldn’t step off.

Sunk cost traps aren’t just financial. They can also be social, emotional, and deeply personal. Philip may have trapped himself with worries about what others will think about his walking away from what most regard as a dream job. I’d remind him of Samuel Johnson’s advice – that we’d worry less about what others think of us if we realised how seldom they do.

In the end, Philip’s self-respect is what counts. Walking away might feel as if he’s repudiating how he’s spent his recent years. But to me, belatedly changing an unhappy life sounds a lot better than doubling down.

This article was written by Professor Michael Wheeler and was originally published on LinkedIn. 

It was first published on Procurious in August 2017.

Professor Michael Wheeler’s Negotiation Mastery course on Harvard Business School’s HBX launched earlier this year. Applications for the next wave of students, starting in September, are now being accepted. Version 1.4 of his Negotiation 360 self-assessment/best practice app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It includes coaching videos and a tactics exercise.