All posts by Lynn (Crouse) Rideout

Three Imperatives Of Every Successful Category Manager

Every leadership role in every business comes with its own set of imperatives, a set of tasks that must be focussed on to guarantee success. But what imperative should a great category manager follow?

This article was written by  Lynn Rideout – Director Procurement Services, Denali – A WNS Company.

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Fred Wilson once described the three tasks that every CEO should focus on, whilst all other tasks should be delegated to their team.

These three things, the CEO imperatives, must include:

  • Setting the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicating it to all stakeholders
  • Recruiting, hiring and retaining the very best talent for the company
  • Ensuring there is always enough cash in the bank

If your CEO can’t excel at all three, the chances are you’ve got some fairly big problems within your organisation.

What if we were to take the concept of the three imperatives, and apply it to category management?

What should you do well to be successful?

What are your imperatives?

And, furthermore, how do you take the basic understanding of category management and enable it across your organisation?

At Denali, we believe the greatest category managers follow these three imperatives.

1. Know Your Stakeholders

First and foremost, successful category managers understand the importance of stakeholder alignment and building positive relationships. Follow these tips to enhance your stakeholder relationships through your category plan:

  • Be with your stakeholders – Spend time (both real and mental) with them every day
  • Intimately know their business objectives – use a consistent framework to correctly identify true requirements, the key enablers, and barriers to those objectives; where value is created?
  • Establish true alignment – establish shared goals and earn trusted advisor relationship
  • Sell YOUR vision – “if not now, then when?”, be aligned and integrated with stakeholders
  • Bring new opportunities to the table vs. react to requests or issues
  • Plant seeds with stakeholders – start one project at a time; build reputation and trust

Remember, to effectively persuade and engage your stakeholders, you must tailor the content for each discussion. Tell your story and help build the business case. Building successful relationships is an evolution. Your stakeholder relationships will grow with time – and so will your credibility with stakeholders!

2. Understand Your Categories

Understanding the internal and external dynamics of your categories drives idea generation and stakeholder engagement. Follow these tips to better understand your categories:

  • Get dirty with the data – become intimate with your category details, but get to true insights – the “so what’s”
  • Be curious – ask why, seek innovation, and develop new strategies
  • Be intentional regardless of the depth and category maturity
  • Be “in the market” – study market drivers/trends, talk to suppliers, participate in market events, read broadly
  • Network with category peers in other industries/organisations
  • Understand your suppliers – capabilities, performance, why you use them, and leverage them

Establish a plan to refresh and maintain category knowledge as part of building your story. Knowledge will grow with time, but it should not delay execution.

3. Deliver Results

Now that you know your stakeholders and understand your categories – it’s time to execute. Use this newfound alignment and knowledge to drive deliberate consideration of a prioritised portfolio rather than executing on strategic sourcing project at a time. After all, category management is MUCH more than simply executing sourcing projects.

  • Take a portfolio approach – Know your targets and have a plan to get there, get many projects teed up, and leverage available resources
  • Eliminate extraneous work – Get comfortable with not doing it all
  •  Press sourcing strategies for greater value (go to auction, demand management, standardisation, supplier innovation, etc.)
  • But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – you must start somewhere
  • Leverage all available resources to reach your objectives
  • Sustain the value by managing supplier relationships and performance

The best way to deliver results is to have a sense of urgency with a bias toward execution.

To learn more about how to a successful category manager and enable a true category management plan, register for our upcoming webinar.

Our webinar, Breaking the Groundhog Day Mentality: Enabling a TRUE Category Management Mind, takes place at 1pm GMT / 8 am EST on 29th November 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here.