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Procurement Innovation Personas Revealed: Which Are You?

Are you an ‘innovation visionary’? Or one of the other innovation ‘personas’ in procurement? Well now you can find out!

procurement innovation personas

By Daniel Ball, Director, Wax Digital.

Recent research Wax Digital has conducted has revealed that 80 per cent of procurement professionals are seeking to challenge the status quo.

However, for many their use of innovation is evolving. Fewer than one in five are seen as ‘innovation visionaries’, and many others are taking different paths.

The research shows that procurement professionals value innovation, with most working towards becoming more innovative in their role in a bid to drive the business.

Procurement Innovation Personas

However, what it also shows is that there are four distinct ‘personas’ that define how procurement professionals are driven by innovation and change.

The four different personas defining procurement innovation are:

  • High-level Visionaries

18 per cent are committed to the use of technology and using data insights to influence business innovation.

Very much about the bigger picture, they use their procurement expertise to influence top level innovation and growth, rather than being personally and practically hands on in driving that change.

  • Enlightened Activists

At 36 per cent, the most common of the ‘personas’ and the most likely to be directly driving innovation.

This group is successfully driving change and delivering business value through high technology adoption. They are focused on solving real business issues rather than departmental processes. They don’t stand still and are always on the lookout for what’s next.

  • Early Strategists

30 per cent are still sowing the early seeds of procurement innovation but realise that they have many opportunities ahead of them. Innovation is a priority, but they have some way to go before they fully embrace it.

  • Pragmatic Professionals

This final 20 per cent are less innovation focused, but still open to using it practically, to improve procurement processes. Their primary focus is on savings to the bottom line and following clear business mandates.

Seeking Value in Innovation

It’s really positive that these findings show almost all procurement professionals seeing value in innovation and involvement in it. Whether this is through changing the way they do things, or, as is increasingly the case, influencing how the business as a whole should adapt too.

While early innovators tend to be dealing with more fundamental changes, such as implementing technology for the first time, they have the biggest ambitions for innovation in the near future.

At the more experienced end of the spectrum we see a mix of procurement working hands on to drive business innovation, and senior procurement advisors consulting on the business big questions around future change.

What’s interesting is that these findings ring true with what we see working with procurement teams on a day-to-day basis. The function is shedding its stuffy and administrative reputation. It is investing in technology that integrates the whole sourcing and purchasing process, delivering valuable insight, and enabling them to be bolder in showing the business what it’s capable of.

Procurement’s path to innovation is not perfect however. There are tell-tale signs that its innovativeness could be hampered and restricted by its inherent aversion to risk.

To become real innovators, procurement professionals must foster the right business relationships, nurture the correct set of new skills and seek to break ground in their approach to technology.

If you’d like to find out which persona you are and how you can best apply innovation in your role we have created a simple quiz – What type of procurement innovator are you?

The personas are based on research conducted by MORAR Consulting with 100 senior UK procurement executives commissioned by Wax Digital.

Are Traditional Views Limiting Procurement Innovation?

Is a lack of competitiveness and a risk averse nature holding back the progress of procurement innovation? New research seems to suggest so.

New research shows that procurement is innovating and wants to do so even more in the future. However, the function’s risk averse nature, non-competitive attitude, and the prioritisation of collaboration over leadership, may be holding back its progress.

While many procurement professionals and leaders are embracing procurement innovation, many appear to be innovating within a safe environment, sticking with the things they know about, such as the supply chain.

Procurement says its ability to innovate is stifled by what others think it’s there to do, but isn’t it time that procurement stopped worrying what others perceive it as and started focusing on realising its full potential?

Limiting Procurement Innovation

Wax Digital’s new Procurement Innovation Pathway research, which surveyed 100 of the UK’s senior procurement professionals, shows that 69 per cent considered themselves pivotal to business innovation today, with 80 per cent expecting to be so in the future.

On average, 76 per cent said that they are involved in a range of business innovations, but only 27 per cent are leading them. However, 86 per cent said they want to be a part of all ongoing product innovations and service developments in the future – not only those within the procurement function.

But procurement’s view of what makes a business innovative appears to be impacted by some of its traditional risk averse thinking. Having a clear business vision (42 per cent), reacting quickly to the market and customers (33 per cent) and reviewing and improving business processes (32 per cent) were procurement’s top cited factors associated with business innovation.

Other characteristics traditionally more innovation related, however, are at the bottom of their list. Only 20 per cent cited a willingness to take risks, and 19 per cent a high investment in R&D, for example.

Procurement Innovation Barriers

Procurement identifies a number of factors stopping it innovating, most frequently other departmental views (40 per cent), lack of required skills (33 per cent) and time consuming processes (31 per cent).

And while these factors clearly play a part, there seem to be attitudinal setbacks with procurement’s own mind-set. Only 10 per cent, for example, are focused on challenging business objectives; just 14 per cent prioritise competitiveness and 18 per cent leadership as skills within their team – which they also say are declining traits.

Commenting on the research’s finding, Daniel Ball, director at Wax Digital said: “It’s fair to say that the average procurement function today is a vastly different place to what it once was. Procurement is innovating – of that there’s no doubt. But are they heading in the right direction or truly prepared to break the mould? Clear indicators of some discomfort with taking risks and really leading and driving innovation suggest it’s not yet realising its full potential in this area.

“To become real innovators, procurement professionals must overcome these issues while fostering the right business relationships, nurturing the correct new skills and seeking to break ground in their approach to technology.”

The Innovation 2016 research was conducted by Morar Consulting in March 2016, involving 100 interviews to canvass the opinions of UK senior procurement professionals working in small to large UK enterprises.

You can find out more about the research, and download the report, by visiting the Wax Digital website.