Tag Archives: procurement

What Is CIPS And How To Get Accredited

Procurement, like many other professions, has made huge strides in supporting and providing accreditation to the many professionals that make up its membership.

So, the big questions are what is CIPS? How do I get accredited? And how could becoming chartered help turn the tide on global ethics?

Let jump right into it…


What is CIPS?

Originally the Purchasing Officers’ Association, it wasn’t until 1992 that the Association was granted a Royal Charter to become the Chartered Institute of Procurement (Purchasing) and Supply (CIPS) that we know today.

With a membership of over 200,000 professionals globally, the Institute is putting the profession on the front foot when it comes to providing accreditation for its members.

What does CIPS mean to us

CIPS is seen as the voice of the procurement profession, a champion of the profession globally, led by current CIPS CEO Malcolm Harrison, while still retaining local roots in its many national associations and member-led branches.

The benefits of being a CIPS member are considerable. From connections to a network of over 200,000 global professionals, in as many varied industries and sectors as you can think of, to a constantly updating knowledge hub, with everything from the basics of procurement, right up to specialist subject areas. And that’s not to mention the webinars, podcasts and YouTube channel.

The core of the CIPS offering for procurement and supply chain professionals is in the professional accreditation that the organisation offers and supports.

Who can become a CIPS member?

The designation of MCIPS represents the gold standard for procurement professionals and is an internationally recognised award that brings the individual holder a number of benefits.

The qualifications are open to anyone working in the procurement and supply chain profession, taking them from Studying Members all the way to MCIPS, and potentially even a fellowship (FCIPS) for the senior advocates of the profession.

Will having CIPS accreditation advance my career?

In recent years, CIPS has brought its qualifications in line with other professional bodies and offers its members a chance to become chartered through its programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Joining CIPS and taking a full part in its activities as a member is no small investment, and the qualifications should not be undertaken lightly.

But, as a fully paid up member of the procurement profession, why wouldn’t you want to invest in your career and your future in this way?

As with other qualifications, achieving MCIPS does provide benefits to individuals.

Many global businesses see CIPS qualifications as the minimum standard for their procurement teams.

Due to the regard in which they are held, and the trust of the standard that they produce, many employers choose to support their staff by funding their studies.

You may not need MCIPS to work in procurement and supply chain, but having the qualification allows current and prospective employers to see that you have applicable training in your arsenal.

The annual CIPS/Hays Salary Survey and Guide helps to highlight just how important these qualifications can be. In 2020, 64 per cent of survey respondents stated that they requested MCIPS or studying towards it as a requirement for people applying for jobs with them.

It’s not only going to help you get through the door either. Professionals with MCIPS earn, on average, 17 per cent more than peers without the qualifications.

And at a time where the expertise of procurement and supply chain professionals is becoming more widely sought, having these qualifications could be the key to unlocking the full potential of your future career.

CIPS Chartership & the ethics exam

One of the key elements that CIPS has brought in along with its accreditation and, now, chartership, is its Ethics exam for individual members.

Any member, from student all the way up to FCIPS, is required to take the exam annually in order to keep their qualifications and membership up to date. The eLearning test covers the three key pillars of the ethical procurement and supply:

  • Environmental Procurement
  • Human Rights
  • Fraud, Bribery and Corruptions

The test is free for all members and can be purchased by non-members too. This works alongside the CIPS Code of Ethics, which organisations can sign up to as a public commitment to proper work practices in the field of procurement.

Over the past few years there have been several high-profile global events linked to poor ethical procurement practices.

At a time where global supply chains, and by association procurement, are in the spotlight, having a widely agreed and signed Code of Ethics, backed up by an annual ethics exam for individuals is crucial.

Supporting the ethical agenda is something all procurement and supply chain professionals should be doing.

Accreditation and Chartership provide the foundation for developing a profession that operates within these bounds and is something that should be an expectation for all professionals in the coming years.

Play your part and take the first steps on your chartership journey by joining CIPS today.

How To Write The Best Supply Chain Resume

Write the ultimate Procurement resume that is both eye-catching and optimised towards securing your ideal next Supply Chain role.


I have worked in executive supply chain recruitment for 16 years. I built a Supply Chain & Procurement career site that ranked number 1 in Google for a variety of top search terms. As such, I understand how important it is to build a strong resume that makes an early impact with the reader and really aligns you to role that you are applying for. 

Throughout this article we will explore the elements to focus on to set yourself apart from the competition and build a strong resume that conveys your skills, values and experience in the best possible way.

Early impact

I have read claims that the reviewer of a resume will make a subconscious decision on candidate suitability for a given position within around 7 seconds of opening/picking up the document. Although this may seem harsh, it goes without saying that if a role advertisement has generated 200 responses then it is more than likely the reviewer will not be reading all the content of each and every resume. This makes the opening page even more important.

Layout

Layout is always high on the list of priorities when it comes to creating an attention grabbing procurement resume. The reader should be able to find information readily and the presentation of the document is key to this being possible. Having reviewed thousands of supply chain and procurement related resumes in my time in recruitment, I can honestly say that layout needs to be your number one priority and should gear the resume towards the presentation of your best achievements and most impressive responsibilities held during your career.

For developing an eye catching design theme there are free tools on the internet such as Canva that offer a resume builder tool with access to hundreds of template themes.

Executive Summary

Many job seekers opt for an executive summary or profile at the top of the resume. This is absolutely fine however DO NOT get this wrong as this is the preface to the entire document.

Try to incorporate some of your biggest achievements into your opening profile with plenty of quantifiable data. For example:

MBA qualified Supply Chain executive with 20 years experience within the FMCG and Retail sectors leading teams of up to 600 indirect reports and P&Ls in excess of $600m

In one fell swoop you have provided the reader with an idea of your level of education, number of years experience, sector specific background, size of teams managed and level of budgetary responsibility.

Two or three sentences covering your responsibilities and biggest achievements should suffice to create a captivating opening statement.

Play to your Strengths

Another tip for resume layout is to play to your strengths: if you are educated to MBA or Masters level, or have a function specific Degree(s), then bring these to the forefront of the resume. A brief section for educational qualifications underneath Profile/Executive Summary will suffice. This could be particularly important for a recent graduate who has 6 months work experience but 4 years study in the procurement area – education can take on more of a priority than professional experience in such a case. If, however you do not possess any tertiary qualifications, you should bring your practical professional experience to the forefront and leave any reference to education towards the end of the document.

Career Summary

We have explored the creation of a concise opening statement with plenty of impact and the promotion of significant educational qualifications on the front page, now let’s consider a career summary.

Career summaries are a great way to provide the reader with immediate access to what your most recent role has been, how your career has gone to date, and should demonstrate a consistent increase in level of responsibility up until your current role. Times when career summaries should be avoided include recent graduates (for obvious reasons) and potentially interim contracts specialists. An interim contract project manager for instance may have worked at 20 or more companies in the last 5 years and therefore listing all the individual contracts in one list becomes exactly that – a list and not a summary! For an interim specialist or even a project manager it could be worth considering listing key competencies or areas of specialty – I would even recommend tailoring the resume further towards the opening by aligning all the contracts/projects that are most relevant – For instance “Examples of Strategic Transformation Projects”.

Having invested time in developing these areas of your front page, the reader now knows where you have worked, your level of education (if appropriate), some of your greatest achievements and is becoming well equipped to assess your suitability for the position … quickly!

Resume Length

Another point on layout is the age old question of how long the resume should be. The simple answer is the document should be long enough to include everything of relevance to the position you are applying for.

You should try and keep the resume to no more that 4 pages according to the Career Development Association of Australia.

Really focus on what you have achieved in the last 5 years, however if a role you executed 8 years prior is highly relevant (either due to specific industry sector or responsibilities) then develop this further. You should really be including just key highlights in terms of overall responsibility and achievements from your early career. If the last time you updated your resume was 6 years ago, then avoid simply adding to the document. The reason for this is times have moved on and your primary focus is what has happened in these last 6 years. By adding to the old version you will essentially be making the document unnecessarily lengthy and should first trim down the previous version always remembering to quantify responsibility and achievements to build credibility.

Order

Resumes should always be in reverse chronological order (seems logical?) as this highlights your most recent experience early in the document. I would always recommend including a brief description on the size, scope and nature of a business you have worked for. Yes, if you worked for 10 years with a leading bank then of course a resume reviewer from another bank is likely to be well informed on the company you have worked for. However, what happens if you decide to apply for a role in another industry sector? What if the resume reviewer is overseas and knows nothing of your organisation?

Then comes the role title, responsibilities and achievements. Procurement is an area where even the same job titles can have different degrees of focus and responsibility from one company to the next. You should leave the reader in no doubt as to the scope of your role/department/team/project. Never duplicate your job description on the resume: this is obvious to the reader. You can however use your job description as a point of reference to ensure you haven’t missed any key areas of responsibility.

Point of reference

Since your interview will involve questions, The trick around resume content is to include everything that is relevant but to leave enough for you to articulate further at an interview. Remember, you should easily be able to expand upon anything included on your resume at interview. Therefore, for any key achievements (most likely around strategic sourcing/spend reduction/ process formulation and optimisation/ stakeholder engagement/vendor management etc) you should be able to take the interviewer through the exact steps taken by you and the team. This last point is quite resounding since it never looks good to take sole credit for achievements that were part of a wider departmental/organisational agenda with many people involved. It’s absolutely fine to outline the parameters that you and your team drove to achieve a desired outcome if the contribution was significant to overall success.

Me, myself and I

Do not write resumes in third person sense e.g. “Stephen drove improved supplier engagement through….”. This gives the appearance the resume was concocted by another individual. In the same breath it is worth mentioning you should avoid using “I” frequently. In the previous example the sentence could start with “Improved supplier engagement through…”.

Target Roles

We can debate all day long about what makes an outstanding supply chain resume, however the main determining factor around the strength of a resume is what we are benchmarking the document against – i.e. the role to which the resume is being put forward. You could have a really strong general supply chain resume that details everything we have reviewed above, but when we look at the resume against a specific role it lacks depth in certain areas or spends too much time focusing on non-value added topics. If a job seeker is sitting down to write their resume, then as much as they should focus on what they have achieved to date, they should also consider what types of roles they will be interested in that meet their aspirations. Ensure you demonstrate the desired criteria and experience in your resume document for these types of positions. This will also strengthen your resume’s searchability in recruitment systems and it will also help you to concoct a strong Linkedin profile that can be found by headhunters searching for candidates against a role that fits your aspirations.

Social Links

Be sure to include your contact details and links to professional social media profiles such as Linkedin. If you notice that your Linkedin profile ends in a series of numbers you can actually change this through editing your profile and updating the profile URL (subject to availability).

Format

After having created an impactful and well presented resume you should consider saving the file in a couple of different formats.

Microsoft Word should form the basis of your resume building and editing however you may wish to convert to a PDF file for application submission. My recommendation when dealing through recruiters would be to ask if they would prefer the resume to be sent in Word or PDF format. Most recruitment firms will edit the resume with their own branding and remove and candidate contact details. This can become very difficult if the resume is in PDF format and lead to formatting issues.

The job market is currently at its most competitive and having the best possible resume increases your chances of securing an interview for your ideal next role. Do you have any other suggestions for what makes an outstanding resume? Let us know in the comments below!

How To Set A Procurement Strategy Part 1: What You’re Currently Doing Wrong

How do you set a strategy for your procurement function? Discover what not to do. 


In 2020, we’re all au fait with the word ‘strategic.’ Procurement needs to be strategic, metaphorically yells every advice piece we read. What’s the strategy behind that, what’s your function’s strategy, what’s the strategy this year? Exclaim C-suite executives we run into; or perhaps a strategy consultant they’ve engaged. 

But when it comes to procurement – what does a strategy even mean? 

As an internal function, a procurement strategy is a complex idea. As procurement’s purpose is inherently to serve our stakeholders, should our strategy simply be to do just that? Or should we set a separate procurement strategy, based on best practice we observe in our particular function, elsewhere? Both approaches have their benefits, but also significant downsides. So which one is it, or is it neither? Here’s a detailed explanation of the two different ‘strategies’ that most procurement teams execute, and exactly why they may not be the best choice going forward: 

Bad strategy #1 – The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ Strategy

What is the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy? 

Ken had not long been in his role as CPO at a utilities company when a meeting entitled ‘Procurement Strategy’ appeared in his diary. He hoped – and assumed – that the meeting would be about the business’s long-term strategy, which he would then translate into a roadmap for his team. 

But he was wrong. 

Alison, the company’s CEO, told him that he need not bother himself with strategy, because ‘that’s what I’m here for.’ She said, unapologetically, that the job of internal functions like procurement was to ‘keep all internal stakeholders happy’ and that she expected his team to ‘do whatever was required’ to do just that. 

‘That was the problem with the last CPO,’ she told Ken, ominously. ‘She was always on a different wavelength, always chasing her own version of success. But while she did that, no one here was happy. Don’t repeat that same mistake.’ 

Why is the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy so appealing? 

The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy, or the idea a procurement function exists to simply do whatever is required by stakeholders within the business, is frighteningly common. This is because the basic premise of this strategy – the idea that internal functions are created to serve the wider corporation – is in fact correct. Many CEOs believe that the business units that create products or support customers should be supported by internal functions. While this is true, it can also be deeply frustrating for functions that need – and deserve – to create their own strategy. 

But the problem with the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy runs much deeper than just frustration. 

What’s the problem with the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy? 

The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy works in theory only; as many CPOs will have now no doubt learnt. By granting ‘wishes’ – so to speak – to a multitude of different commanders, without any regard for what to prioritise or how to allocate resources, staff quickly become overworked, resources get spread too thin, and stakeholders are often underwhelmed. All decisions become reactive and nothing is done well, meaning that the all-important procurement influence is lost, with little room to show value added. Business units start ‘insourcing’ – either doing part of procurement’s job themselves, or looking for cheaper, external resources to do it for them. 

Overworked staff, insourcing and little value perceived to be added leads the C-suite to fundamentally question whether procurement is ‘worth it,’ meaning ever-more pressure on cost savings, and eventually, redundancies. 

The ‘My Wish is Your Command’ strategy is something that Dave Pastore, Senior Director, Sourcing Operations at Corcentric, has seen too many times – but, in his opinion, it never works: 

‘Any strategy that reduces the procurement function to a shared service without providing it with the ability to challenge the organisation is a squandered opportunity at best, and a self-inflicted wound at worst.’

On the surface, the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy seems to make sense. But dig deeper, and it’s a deeply fraught concept that deprives procurement as a function of fundamentally doing what they need to do – adding value. 

Bad strategy #2 – ‘Market Leader’ Strategy

It’s clear that the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy is no way forward. So is the opposite strategy, one whereby procurement makes clear choices that set the company apart vis-a-vis other procurement functions externally, the better choice then? 

Not quite… 

What is the ‘Market Leader’ strategy? 

As a new CPO in one of the world’s fastest growing tech companies, Karen thought she’d secured her dream role. And in her first few months on the job, that seemed to be the truth. 

As someone who was quite entrepreneurial and strategic herself, Karen knew that to become a ‘market leader’ in procurement, the company needed to invest heavily in tech. The CEO, himself a young entrepreneur, gave Karen the green light to do whatever she needed. ‘Just make sure we’re the best,’ he said, while signing off on a budget that made Karen’s eyes water. 

But as time passed by, problems materialised for Karen. It turned out that being ‘the best’ wasn’t as easy as emulating best practice in the marketplace, for a number of reasons. 

Why is the ‘Market Leader’ strategy so appealing? 

For ambitious CPOs, the chance to implement the ‘Market Leader’ strategy can feel like a career-defining moment. Firstly, it treats procurement with the respect it deserves, and places it equally with the rest of the business in terms of power and importance. Secondly, it just seems like the right thing to do. If you’re trying to be ‘the best,’ why not look for an example of that and then try and do the same? 

Creating a ‘market leading’ procurement function may well look good on your CV. It may be the case study that nets you media coverage; that amplifies your personal brand and that makes you an authority in the space. But at the same time, there’s every chance it will fail within your organisation. 

Why? 

What is the problem with the ‘Market Leader’ strategy? 

The ‘Market Leader’ strategy seems perfect until you consider one thing: context. And given that procurement is not separate to an organisation, but an integral part of it, context is hugely important. 

Take the example of Karen detailed above. What evidence did she have, beyond the fact that she was working for a tech company, that investing heavily in tech was what was needed for her function? Precisely none. Many procurement leaders have chased ‘best practice’ before, only to discover that what might be best in the marketplace may not suit their organisation for a number of reasons. 

Jennifer Ulrich, Senior Directory, Advisory, at Corcentric, believes that the idea that you have to be a ‘market leader’ in all aspects of procurement is misguided: 

‘You don’t have to be a market leader on every aspect of procurement in order to generate a competitive advantage to the organisation. 

‘Doing what is right for the business will put you in a winning position more often.’

While market-leading strategies look externally focused, they actually function more like internal monopolies, where procurement serves themselves, rather than the needs of the business leaders around them. As a result, the function falls victim to the typical problems experienced by monopolies, including arrogance and overresoucring. Managers within the business complain that resources are being used for ‘show’ as opposed to invested in things that would actually give the company a competitive advantage. 

As a result, backlash ensues. The ‘value’ added by procurement is again called into question, and the function is seen as the exact thing it is trying to rebel against: burdensome cost. 

So how should you set a procurement strategy? 

If a ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy doesn’t work, and neither does a ‘Market Leader’ strategy, then how should procurement create a meaningful, long-term and effective strategy? 

Diego De la Garza, Senior Director, Global Services, at Corcentric, recommends you begin by doing the following: 

‘Start with defining what success should look like for procurement in your organisation, finding those answers early is a relatively easy way to build a strategy that will drive healthy support across the organisation.’ 

Want more detail? Discover exactly what to do in our next article: How to Set a Procurement Strategy Part 2: What to do. Join Procurious now to be notified immediately when it’s published.

5 Traits You’ll Need To Succeed At Contracting

What traits are required to succeed as a contractor? Here are the 5 must-haves.


For those of us that have only ever had full-time, permanent jobs, the idea of contracting may seem scary or strange. Why put yourself through all that uncertainty? What do you do when it ends? What if you fall in love with the company but can’t stay? These are the many questions that we might ask ourselves. And given the current economic climate, now might be time to start seeking the answers. But as it turns out, contracting is the answer to much more than those questions.  

At various times throughout our careers, whether it’s because of a global pandemic, a recession, an industry disruption or the fact that we’re just plain burnt out, we may decide or be forced to include contracting or consulting in our work histories. Contracting can have so many benefits that we may never have considered, for example, they allow us to experience new projects and challenges, forge new connections, and trial businesses and bosses to ensure they’re the right fit. Having the breadth of experience can also make us more marketable and hireable, and expanding our network can help us access ever more opportunities.  

In other words, contracting can be a great career asset – especially post COVID, as there will be more contracting opportunities than ever. Yet at the same time, contracting isn’t for everyone. So how do you know whether it’s for you? Here’s five traits you’ll need to succeed at contracting: 

Trait #1: The ability to influence others

Having placed hundreds of successful contractors over his nearly three decade career as a supply chain recruiter, Tim Moore, President of Tim Moore and Associates, believes that there is one trait that is, without doubt, the most important trait you’ll need to succeed as a contractor. And that trait is the ability to influence others. He says: 

‘As a contractor or consultant, you’re called in to solve issues. It could be relatively minor, involving a single department or concern, or it could be monumental and systematic, affecting the entire company. The bottom line is that fixing it is up to YOU.’ 

Given the focus on fixing things, many people mistakenly think that good qualifications and good experience count for more when you’re contracting. But that certainly hasn’t been Tim’s experience: 

‘Time and time again I’ve seen a great candidate, someone highly educated with a Masters degree, several professional delegations and years of dedicated experience, I’ve seen them not succeed at all at contracting.’ 

‘These people may have great potential on paper, yet they’re not totally effective because of a lack of ability to communicate and ultimately influence others.’ 

But what does totally effective look like? It’s certainly a high bar, Tim believes: 

‘As a contractor, if you can’t elicit the burning desire, conviction and approval of others toward a common vision, goal or operating solution, no amount of planning, networking or knowledge will suffice.’ 

‘You need to be able to influence others in an effective manner, not through coercion, but by projecting and justifying a vision or solid course of action toward an acceptable solution.’ 

Trait 2: The ability to create trust

Being as persuasive as Tim describes can certainly feel like a tall order. But it isn’t as hard as it seems, if you possess another trait which is essential in contracting and that is: the ability to create trust. 

Trust is the backbone of all good relationships and as such, the more you focus on it and deliberately work to develop it, the easier it will be to influence others. But how do you create trust? There are a few specific things you can do, Tim says: 

‘If you’re looking to create trust, it’s so important to “walk the talk.” Be honest with your communication and with all of your decisions and motives … even if it’s bad news, unfavourable, or a tough decision.’ 

‘Consistency is also important. Be reliable and supportive.’ 

As great as this all sounds, any of us who have worked in challenging cultures or with difficult stakeholders know that it can be easier said than done! But that’s all part of the challenge of being trustworthy and influential, Tim believes. And realistically, it may involve overcoming previously held fears: 

‘As a consultant or contractor, you can bring fresh perspectives. Yet still it can be scary to speak up, especially if it’s an unpopular perspective or contrary to the status quo.’ 

Tim likens this fear to the famous story, Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. In the story, two weavers promise an emperor new clothes, but say that they will be ‘invisible’ to people who are incompetent or unfit for their positions. In reality, the weavers make no clothes at all, but when the emperor parades his clothes, everyone, fearful for their jobs and status, are too afraid to say anything. In the end a child, who doesn’t share the same fear, cries out ‘but he isn’t wearing anything!?!”

For Tim, an exceptional contractor is one who plays the role of the child in challenging situations: 

‘The difference between a good contractor and an exceptional one is the ability to tell the truth to power … regardless of popular opinion.’ 

Trait 3: The ability to convey empathy 

By now, you’re probably pretty clear on the fact that as a contractor, you’ll need to influence others by first gaining their trust, which, in many cases, may involve breaking with the status quo. But for any of us that have tried to do this, we know that it’s often not well received. Is there a better way, then, to share unsavoury views and opinions? 

There is, according to Tim. And the secret is empathy. 

‘When you speak the truth without empathy, especially when it’s critical in nature, it can be non-productive and can build barriers to creating trust and influence. You must develop the ability to detect other’s emotions and understand their perspective, whether right or wrong.’ 

‘Being non-judgemental and listening enables others to feel accepted and understanding where they are coming from validates their opinion.’ 

To convey empathy, you always need to listen before you speak. And to get the information you need to convey empathy, you may need to dig a little deeper than simply asking for your stakeholder’s opinions, Tim says: 

‘You can convey empathy only after you truly understand your stakeholders. And to do this, you need to ask them about their priorities and preferences, you need to understand their motivations and how they fit into the project you’re working on.’ 

‘In order to garner this deeper understanding, make sure you give stakeholders your full attention. Simple things like eye contact and ensuring you’re not multitasking show that you respect them.’ 

Trait 4: The ability to research properly and fully engage others

As a contractor, you’re often in the hot seat when it comes to solving problems and giving advice. And given your experience, you should be. But does this mean that you should go in guns ablazing and start firing off your expertise before doing your research and engaging others?  

Absolutely not. 

In fact, according to Tim, the fourth critical trait you’ll need as a contractor is the ability to fully engage with your stakeholders and proactively seek opinions and information before you make any judgement. Prior to positing any solution, you should ensure you’ve identified and fully explored all available options. 

Doing your research in this sense in so important, so when you’re active listening, ensure that you’re also engaged, says Tim: 

‘Engaging others is NOT a spectator sport. You have to get involved, get to the root of the problem, and do so in a non-threatening manner. It’s only then that you can seize the opportunity to educate others about your supply chain perspective and responsibilities.’

Trait 5: Being an expert in your profession

Have you noticed a trend with the traits we’ve listed above? Yes, you’re correct – they are all ‘soft’ skills, which, especially in the brave new world of procurement and supply chain that is starting to emerging post-COVID, are particularly important. 

Given the complexity of our profession, though, naturally one final trait is important, and that is: the ability to be an expert in our profession. And when it comes to contracting, it’s important to figure out exactly what you’re an expert in. To do this, Tim recommends reflecting on your last couple of work assignments and asking yourself the following yourself what you might be known for: 

‘Of everything you’ve achieved, there’s probably one or two things you’ve performed particularly well in. Perhaps you’re really good at cost savings, negotiating, or transitioning legacy IT systems to  leading edge capabilities. Whatever it is, pick a couple and run with them.’ 

Contracting skills = career assets

As the world begins the slow recovery from the pandemic, there will be more and more contracting opportunities as businesses look to hire in specialist skills and undertake new and exciting projects. So even if you’ve never contracted before, now could be the time to give it a try, as you’re likely to be able to garner some unique experiences, and perhaps even career-defining opportunities. 

Regardless of the opportunities, though, one thing is for sure: the traits you’ll need to succeed as a contractor are equally important in any role, so developing them in any way you can will represent a distinct career advantage. 

What other traits do you think are required to succeed as a contractor? Let us know in the comments below. 

5 Ways To Stay Connected During COVID-19

We all know networking and creating connections with the people around us is important, but how do we do at the moment? Here’s how. 


Any successful person will tell you that it isn’t what you know, but who you know that gets you ahead. Forging new connections and fostering existing connections can help you broaden your horizons, discover new opportunities, and even secure a much sought-after promotion. Often though, creating these important relationships happens in person. Whether it be via a kitchen chat at your workplace or at an industry-specific event, great connections often start with a personal conversation, a handshake and perhaps an impromptu coffee. 

Yet unfortunately, with the world the way it is at the moment, the face-to-face option is not appropriate and in many places in the world, not even possible. So does this mean that networking needs to stop? Certainly not. Here’s five creative ways to stay in touch with your connections, new and old, without ever having to shake a hand.

1. Check in people in your network 

Given that demand for mental health services have soared worldwide, from a care perspective, there’s every reason to check in on people within your network, and a number of ways you can engage with them. 

Connecting or reconnecting with people could be as simple as asking them how their pandemic experience has been, and whether they are, personally, doing ok. Doing so will help them feel supported, and could open up any manner of conversations about future plans or potential opportunities. Connecting certainly doesn’t need to happen in person, but instead should be done via industry-specific networking sites such as Procurious. 

Given the high amount of people who have lost their job or had their hours or pay reduced, it is also a great time to ask others whether you can introduce them to anyone in your network. Well-timed introductions can make all the difference right now, and could be the source of hope and inspiration a colleague needs to get back on their feet.

Finally, it’s been a tough year for everyone, and every extra endorsement can help boost not just someone’s profile, but their morale as well. If you get a chance, give a colleague a recommendation. It could just be the boost they need to secure an opportunity. 

2. Lend a hand – if you can 

The pandemic has been personally and professionally challenging for many of us, but on the flip side, has also brought out the best in people. From Captain Tom Moore raising 32 million pounds for the NHS charities to global fundraisers to buy healthcare workers coffees, many people have gone above and beyond to help those in need. And it’s something you can do, too. 

With the unprecedented number of people out of work at the moment, many may be looking for work for the first time, so offering to look over someone’s CV could be of real benefit. Alternatively, you could direct them to opportunities within your network, or even recommend online events or upskilling options that might help. Helping others in need is what networking is all about – you never know when you’ll need to call in a favour and your connections won’t forget that you helped them out. 

3. Give recognition and show as much appreciation as you can

When it comes to feeling appreciated by our colleagues and managers at work, people typically believe that money speaks louder than words. But research shows that isn’t true. In fact, simply saying thank you can go a long way – and can help deepen your connections with those around you. 

Research conducted by Gallup of over four million employees showed that recognition at work boosts not only someone’s morale, but their productivity and engagement with those around them. In other words, recognition makes us happy! But how do you do it in a sincere and meaningful way? 

One great way to do it is to give someone praise for something they individually contributed. Ideally, do this in a public forum, such as a procurement industry group discussion board. Giving someone praise publicly for their great work will help them amplify their impact. 

4. Recommend learning content 

While many of us in procurement have found ourselves busier than ever during the pandemic, some in certain industries may have found ourselves scratching our heads, wondering what to do. This might particularly be the case if we’ve been furloughed or worse, made redundant. 

But if we’ve found ourselves with spare time, there’s plenty we can do about that! When this pandemic is over, the procurement landscape will look a little (or entirely) different from what it did before. That’s why now is the time to focus on a number of different technical and soft skills, including resilience. Many courses that you might be interested in are inexpensive or even free, and recommending them to other people can help showcase your industry knowledge and give you a reason to get in touch with your connections.

5. Start a group chat (and talk about things besides work)

The point of creating connections is to broaden your network and potential opportunities. But in creating and fostering these connections, sometimes it’s important to talk about everything but work. Plus, having a casual chat and even sharing some humorous banter with colleagues can inject some fun into your day and help you feel less lonely and more connected. 

Whether it’s you sharing cat snap chats or talking about your children or the (limited) activities you’ve been able to undertake during lockdown, bringing your whole self into group conversations can help foster more authentic connections with those around you. 

How have you been staying connected with your colleagues and those in your broader network? Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.

Supply Chain Globalisation: Is this Seismic Strategy Shift Possible?

59% of procurement and supply chain professionals say the Fortune 500 should reduce globalisation by bringing manufacturing back home. But is it practical?


The best way to describe the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19: pervasive and severe.

Our research found that 97% of the organisations experienced a supply chain disruption. Let that sink in for a second. We knew the supply chain impact of COVID-19 was extensive. This finding takes it up another level – indicating the disruption was near ubiquitous.

So what’s next? The majority of procurement and supply chain professionals (73%) are planning seismic strategy shifts post-pandemic – and rightfully so. Changes under consideration include expanding supply bases, adjusting inventory strategies, increasing financing for key suppliers and localising supply chains. The latter is the most ambitious, and will be the hardest.

Obstacles to Bringing Manufacturing Back Home

The idea of reducing globalisation in response to COVID-19 is both popular and logical.  Nearly 60% of those surveyed believe the Fortune 500 should reduce globalisation by localising supply chains and bringing manufacturing back home.

But as every industry veteran knows, doing so is easier said than done. Modern supply networks and production strategies were built to be global. Reversing this will require fundamental strategy, technology and financial changes.

Consider the core drivers of supply chain globalisation. First and foremost: it’s about costs. The never-ending race to the bottom has made low-cost country sourcing the norm for procurement. At the same time, products – especially smart technologies – are getting more innovative, complex, personalised and sophisticated by the day. This forces manufacturers to outsource critical components to other manufacturers, who outsource to sub-suppliers, and so-on. The sheer expertise and technical capabilities needed to produce smart and connected products (consumer electronics, cars, healthcare equipment, etc.) goes well beyond what one manufacturer could reasonably provide on their own.

As Harvard Business School professor Willy Shih puts it: “A consequence of these complex interdependencies is a deep tiering of supply chains, with manufacturers dependent on their first-tier suppliers, which, in turn, are dependent on a second tier, which are themselves dependent on a third tier, and so on. Visibility into third, fourth, and more distant tiers is challenging, making wholesale replacement of anyone in the chain, let alone the entire chain, extremely difficult.”

In other words: reversing decades’ worth of low-country sourcing strategies, supplier specialization and network expansion will be complex, time-consuming and costly.

While organisations will take the necessary time to evaluate the brand, supply chain and product ramifications of such a change, the national implications are more urgent. Nations across the world – including Australia, the UK and the U.S. – are making big investments to bring manufacturing, especially for critical healthcare supplies, back home. This problem erupted early in the COVID cycle due to global shortages of masks and ventilators, and has become more pronounced as countries prepare to develop vaccines, once approved.

The issue: According to the Financial Times, World Bank data shows “manufacturing’s share of the economy in the US, UK and Australia has shrunk to its lowest level in more than 30 years to 11 percent, 9 percent and 6 percent respectively.” In a time of crisis, where life-saving equipment is needed as soon as possible, the delays creating by strained, outsourced supply chains are highly limiting, to say the least.

What’s Next for Procurement and Supply Chain Leaders?

The pandemic was a wakeup call. But what happens next remains uncertain. Will enterprises invest to reconstruct supply chains, or decide to make more targeted strategy and resource tweaks? Will they see this pandemic as a black swan event or a fundamental course-changer? Only time will tell.

We want to hear what you’re planning. Share your thoughts below.

For more insight, download the How, Now: Supply Chain Confidence Index today.

Want To Succeed As A Global CPO? Don’t Be A Procurement Butterfly!

This is no time for procurement professionals, let alone global CPOs, to float above the action or flit from minor issue to minor issue. It’s time to keep learning and get involved. 


Ian Holcroft’s careercurrently Procurement Director at Murphy, has given him a unique perspective on the situation currently facing procurement. Here, he offers some personal and professional tips on what we can learn from the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

You are never too old to learn something new. Even in the best of times, there is no excuse you can make to ever stop learning. The minute you think you have learned everything is the minute you are no longer relevant. 

My career in procurement has spanned 30 years and taken me all over the world. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked on some fantastic projects:  

  • the new EDF nuclear power station at Hinkley;  
  • the redevelopment of Liverpool City Centre, now known as Liverpool ONE; and 
  • the building of the Commonwealth Games Stadium in Manchester and its subsequent re-modelling to become the Etihad Stadium, the home of Manchester City Football Club, to name but a few. 

I’ve set up new manufacturing facilities and supply chains in India, experienced life on the other side as an interim HR Director for 9 months and set up Laing O’Rourke’s procurement and supply chain function in Australia. I met some extremely wonderful and inspirational people on the way, many of whom will be friends for life. 

The capacity to learn is a gift 

My four years in Australia were wonderful and it was there that I was lucky enough to meet Tania Seary, founder of Procurious. I also became a member of The Faculty’s CPO Roundtable, something that I have continued with, via Procurious, in the UK.  

The Roundtable has proven itself time again to be an incredibly valuable resource to Global CPOs, facilitating discussion, sharing experiences and, most importantly, learning from one another. This learning has been valuable over the past two and a half years in my current role as Procurement Director of Murphy.  

Murphy is a leading family owned infrastructure business that operates in the power, rail, construction and utility sectors in the UK, Ireland and Canada. Due to the nature of the work we undertake, most of our projects in the UK have still been operational during the pandemic. It would be remiss of me not to share some of my own learning from the challenges forced upon us by COVID-19. 

To be honest, the current situation has reinforced many of my beliefs about our profession: 

1. You must treat your suppliers as partners  

One thing I have always believed and shared with my fellow CPOs is that developing close relationships with your supply chain is crucial to your overall success. Those relationships, the key, strategic ones, need to have a solid foundation of trust and then be built around the concept of ‘tough love’.  

As with any relationship, there will be plenty times where you must have the ‘difficult’ conversations with your suppliers. However, it’s always better to have these conversations with a supplier you have a long relationship with, know inside and out and have worked well with in the past. It’s also infinitely better than a ‘slash and burn’ strategy (adopt, use, discard), or a master-slave relationship, as at some point, inevitably, you will need your supply chain more than they need you. 

Supply partners will help keep you going in the toughest of times, frequently going above and beyond their duty to keep projects going. They appreciate the openness, the loyalty and even the tough love to build up a trusting relationship over the years.  

2. You, both as a function and an individual, must be relevant 

In the current global crisis, procurement has an amazing opportunity to show how relevant and crucial it is to the success and survival of all organisations. Global leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have publicly stated how the German Government is utilising procurement as a strategic weapon to fight COVID-19.  

I’ve told my fellow global CPOs that if we can’t make our function relevant now, we never will. How do you stay relevant? Stay close to your stakeholders and help them deliver their targets. You can’t prove relevance from the stands – you need to be on the pitch. Ask yourself, “How close am I to the real action that makes a tangible difference to my business?” 

I am currently embroiled in it, very much by choice! If you’re not, then maybe it’s time to move on and let the next player on the pitch. Unfortunately, there are still far too many ‘procurement butterflies’ floating around, getting involved with this and that, without delivering anything of substance or relevance. It’s time for leaders to stop flitting about and really get involved. 

3. Build a great team – then trust them to deliver 

I have been incredibly fortunate to develop and work with some great teams throughout my career. My current team at Murphy is no different. We have some great, young talent coming through, we have been awarded the CIPS Excellence Standard – it has been a pleasure to lead it. 

But your team will never truly achieve greatness, unless you trust them to deliver. With all the virtual tools and means of communication we have available to us now, even a global pandemic is no excuse for not staying in touch. Just look at Procurious gathering its global CPO leaders virtually to exchange ideas and still achieving the depth of information and experience as it would have face-to-face. 

The procurement team of the future won’t need to travel as much as we used to and working from home will become the new normal. But only as long as everyone in the team has clear outcomes to achieve and a leader who is willing to let them get on with it (though on hand for advice and encouragement as appropriate).  

Plus, there’s still the chance to get together (virtually) for the team building exercises too! 

4. It’s still all about people – so make sure you look after yours 

No matter the technological advancements we have now and into the future, people will still be at the centre of everything we do. In strange and challenging times, it’s even more important to look after your people – understand what drives them, what challenges they have outside work, the status of their mental health, especially if (as it has been for many), they have been furloughed. 

Though physically further apart, there is an opportunity for us to be closer to our people than ever before. We still need to ensure that our people can develop through training. eLearning resources, such as the ones offered by Procurious and CIPS, are great for this. Encourage your team to utilise these and provide them with enough time to complete them. 

And, of course, don’t forget about yourself. As I have said, look after yourself and make sure you’re still learning. Never stop learning, setting yourself new challenges and winning that fight to stay relevant.  

Coming out stronger 

We are facing challenging and frequently troubling times. But I strongly believe that procurement and supply chain will come out the other side of this stronger and in a more influential position. We must seize this opportunity, use all of the resources at our disposal and lead our teams on the next steps in this journey. 

Don’t forget though, you are never alone. No matter your level, from the newest new start in procurement, right up to the most senior of global CPOs, there is always a chance to share. Use resources like the CPO Roundtable to bounce ideas off your peers, pick their brains and see where they have succeeded. And, just in case I haven’t mentioned it often enough – never stop learning! 

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

Aspire To Be A CPO? Know This.

Is it even ok to still want to become a CPO this year, or soon? Read expert insights from a recruiter about on how to do just that. 


It’s been challenging, of late, to give our careers the usual focus they need and deserve. But with the coronavirus situation looking like it may get under control in the next few months, many of us are returning to our former ambitious selves. And with that, comes the inevitable question: If I want to become a CPO, how do I do it? 

Given that we’re all technically surrounded by CPOs and procurement executives most days, it should be easy to answer this. But what works for one person in terms of getting to the top may not work for others. For this reason, it’s better to ask someone that oversees the promotion of procurement professionals into the top echelons of business every day. In other words: Ask an executive recruiter. 

To help you understand how to land a CPO role, we interviewed one of the procurement industry’s top executive recruiters, Mark Holyoake. Mark, the founder of Holyoake Search, has placed dozens of candidates into senior procurement roles over an 18-year career, and has unique and fascinating insights into how you can achieve your career dreams. 

I want to be a CPO within 5 years. What should I be doing now? 

If you’ve got your sights on the top job, but know you’re not quite ready yet, there’s still a lot you can be doing, says Mark, to prepare yourself when the time comes. Across all of the roles he’s recruited, he’s found that all CPOs share certain qualities: 

‘All successful CPOs have great leadership skills. They also understand business strategy. In addition to this, humility, exceptional communication skills, awareness of the future, diplomacy, and a mindset for growth are all critical.’ 

But when should you start developing these essential traits? The sooner, the better, Mark says:

‘Start cultivating these skills early on. Learn them in the classroom, within your company, with the help of an external mentor. Don’t have a mentor? Seek one out ASAP.’ 

Fine-tune your leadership skills

To succeed in procurement, technical skills are of course important. But what’s more important, says Mark, is to be an exceptional leader. If you’re wanting a senior position, Mark believes, these are the skills that you need to work most on. 

Fortunately, the current crisis has provided us all with the opportunity to lead, and there’s one skill in particular that we should all have fine-tuned: 

‘Leading through uncertainty and adversity has certainly been required of late. As a CPO, you’ll always face uncertainty – so that’s a great skill to be nurturing now.’ 

Beyond the skills learned in the current crisis, when Mark recruits for senior roles, he does believe certain leadership skills are crucial. He says the businesses he works with usually look for a number of things: 

‘[My clients] need leaders that understand strategy, how to react to change, and who possess a devotion to research and current affairs.’ 

Getting noticed by executive recruiters 

Recruitment for more junior procurement roles usually happens via networking and job boards. But when it comes to the senior end of town, the majority of roles are advertised through executive recruiters, who then headhunt talent. So this begs the question – how do you get noticed by these recruiters so you know about these roles in the first place, and get the opportunity to apply? 

Mark says that contrary to your standard job search, getting noticed by executive recruiters isn’t about applying: 

‘Candidates should understand that standing out isn’t necessarily about one application or one interview. It’s not about looking for a job when you need to find one.’ 

So what is standing out about, then? Mark recommends that you invest in continually building your profile over time: 

‘Candidates should work on building their online networks and personas over time.’

‘By being active on LinkedIn, sharing relevant articles, participating in discussions, and ensuring visibility, candidates are able to pre-position themselves to stand out to prospective employers and recruiters to represent them.’ 

Interviewing like a true CPO 

Interviews can be intimidating at any level and at an executive level, they can feel particularly intimidating. Fortunately though, Mark says that the key to ‘interviewing like a true CPO’ is really no different from how you succeed at any other interview: 

‘The number one fail I see, which I see at all levels, is that candidates are not fully prepared.’ 

‘Procurement executives are generally pretty confident in their own abilities, not to mention very busy, with the consequence that many will, unfortunately, try to “wing it.”’ 

‘As with most things in life, interview practice makes perfect – so ensure you’re prepared.’ 

But what should you prepare? Mark says that you need to be able to discuss your accomplishments in a concise manner

‘Research common questions and practice giving answers that highlight your accomplishments. Ensure that you’re able to distill large amounts of information into relevant and succinct responses.’ 

Preparing can help you deliver far better answers to questions, says Mark, But it’s also critical for your mindset: 

‘When your mind is prepared and ready to go on autopilot, it allows you to relax and let your conscious mind focus on listening to what is actually being asked. You’ll enjoy the interview more as well!’ 

Making your move – this year? 

If you’re the ambitious type, you’ll inevitably wonder whether it’s appropriate – or possible – to try to move into a more senior role this year. While the situation is certainly volatile at the moment, Mark believes that it could also represent a good opportunity for aspiring CPOs as they are more likely to be able to secure a role where their impact is felt: 

‘Usually, a conflict exists for many procurement professionals in their job search. Do they choose a profitable, fast-growing company where their impact is not felt as strongly, or do they choose a company under duress who needs their help?’

‘Right now, that conflict no longer exists. EVERY company needs your help – you can have your cake and eat it too.’ 

Interestingly, Mark saw a spike in demand for procurement professionals after the 2008 global financial crisis, a trend which enabled many aspiring leaders to step into great roles: 

‘Post-2008, the demand for procurement went up. While it’s unclear if we’ll see a repeat of that, I’m confident that for most job seekers, if they commit to their job search fully and completely, they will find what they’re looking for.’ 

Do you have any other tips for aspiring CPOs? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments below. 

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

If you’re based in the US, connect with Mark Holyoake if you’re looking for, or aspiring to be, procurement executive talent.  

Easter Procurement – How Do They Make Yours?

They have been a staple in the Easter diet for many children (and adults too!) for decades. But just how does Cadbury make the Creme Eggs we enjoy so much?


The humble Cadbury’s Creme Egg has been an Easter staple since its launch nearly half a century ago. Global sales of the eggs are over 500 million per year, with the UK alone accounting for approximately 200 million per year (that’s around 3 each per year in the UK), with the majority of these manufactured in Birmingham, UK.

The Creme Egg brand has a value in itself of £55 million, which certainly isn’t bad for a confectionery item that’s only available between January and Easter each year.

Like them or loathe them, Easter just wouldn’t be the same without the instantly recognisable purple, red and yellow packaging (or green, blue, red and yellow if you happen to live in the USA). It’s no small feat to produce the volume of eggs to satisfy global demand, at such a specific time of year to take full advantage of the condensed sales period.

Before we delve into the supply chain and production process, some facts about this famous egg…

All Gone a Bit Egg Shaped – Fun Facts!

In fact, all Cadbury-manufactured chocolate is banned in the USA, Creme Eggs amongst them. The Hershey Company has the rights to manufacture all Cadbury chocolate in the USA and the move was to limit competition with imported items.

This is down to the recipes being altered slightly to adjust to different tastes, as well as to account for some ingredients that are banned in certain countries.

More on this below, but let’s just say that it did not go well…

Not only are the Eggs themselves shrinking thanks to ‘shrinkflation’, but in 2015 the multipacks dropped from six to five eggs. But that probably helps with the next fact…

  • They are really unhealthy (but you knew that and it doesn’t really matter anyway).

Each egg contains around the same volume of sugar as two bowls of really sugary cereal. And at around 6 teaspoons of sugar, it’s what the American Heart Association considers to be a full day’s worth of sugar.

Raw Materials

The Creme Egg that we buy and eat today has been in production since its introduction in 1963. It’s recipe has been the same since this time, using the same key ingredients. There was a brief period in 2015 when Mondelez, who currently own Cadbury, and Kraft, their parent company, changed the recipe. This involved changing the use of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate for the egg’s shell to a cheaper, cocoa-based shell.

And much like the ill-fated New Coke recipe, the outcry was much the same. After much protest the recipe was changed back, but not before the organisation had seen a loss in sales estimated at £6 million in 2015. FYI, for those of you outside the UK, don’t get a Brit started on what their feelings are on Cadbury’s chocolate in general since the firm was taken over by Schweppes and then Mondelez!

The key ingredients we’re looking at here are, of course, cocoa and, in Cadbury’s own words, “a glass and a half of milk in each bar”. The majority of the milk in the UK, over 50%, is supplied by dairy farm co-operative, Selkley Vale farmers, from Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

The cocoa is a bit more complicated and, in the past, a lot more controversial. As with most chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury sources its chocolate from countries with high volumes of cocoa production – Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil. Previously fully affiliated with Fairtrade, Cadbury drew criticism  of practices and its supply chain when it dropped this in 2016 in favour of a new scheme, Cocoa Life.

The scheme, which is, as of 2019 working in close partnership with Fairtrade, aims to use over $400 million to aid 200,000 cocoa farmers worldwide. Not only will this mean that more Cadbury chocolate is made from sustainably sourced cocoa, but farmers will still have benefits in line with Fairtrade goals, such as improved income, competitive pricing and tailored investment suited to their needs.

Cadbury has been able to leverage its supply chain well in recent years to provide a solid and stable foundation for its production in the UK, Canada and the USA. How do they go from that to the magic end product?

The Production

Ever wondered how Cadbury manages to get the very unhealthy, yet absolutely delicious, fondant filling into Creme Eggs? Had discussions over whether it’s an injection mould for the outer shells and then the fillings? Then wonder no more!

It’s actually quite simple really. The two halves of the shell are made separately and then filled with the fondant to create that ‘fresh egg’ look inside. The halves are then shut in a book mould to create the final product, that is then wrapped for sale. If you want to see everything in action, there’s a great video on YouTube (and below…) from Bloomberg on the full UK production process.

Probably the most bizzare thing in the whole production process, apart from the fact that there’s someone working for Cadbury whose job title is ‘Easter Shift Manager’, is that all of this happens in winter. Supply chains are year-round anyway, but production processes need to be done in such a way that the hundreds of millions of eggs are ready for shipping for the 1st of January.

There you have it – a brief history of, and the not-so-secrets behind manufacturing one of the pillars of Easter. Now, I don’t know about you, but we’re off to the shops for a few Creme Eggs before they disappear for another year…!

How to Explain Procurement Using a Christmas Turkey

Still struggling to explain procurement to your friends and relatives? This festive season, why not put it in easily understandable terms – using your Christmas turkey?

Christmas turkey
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

“So, er … Cindy – what is it you actually do?” 

It’s the holiday season, which means that at some point you’re likely to find yourself making small talk at a social event with someone who is showing polite interest in what you do for a living.

The trouble is, the word “procurement” is quite often met with a blank look. I know that I certainly had no idea what the term meant the first time it was mentioned, and even today I’m still discovering that there’s way more to procurement than the word suggests.

So, how should you answer someone who presses you on what procurement actually is?

Don’t be boring

Let’s have a look at some of the common definitions of procurement that come up with a basic Google search.

From Wikipedia (a quote from MIT press):

“Procurement is the process of finding and agreeing to terms, and acquiring goods, services, or works from an external source, often via a tendering or competitive bidding process.”

Sorry, I think I nodded off in the middle of reading that! Apart from being wordy and dull, the real problem with this definition is that it talks about process rather than outcomes. Nobody cares about tenders or competitive bidding processes. They’d rather hear about outcomes such as money saved, the eradication of modern slavery, and environmental benefits.

In its whitepaper on this very topic, CIPSA canvassed its members to come up with this definition:

“Procurement is the business management function that ensures identification, sourcing, access and management of the external resources that an organisation needs or may need to fulfil its strategic objectives.”

Accurate, but soporific. What’s needed is a definition that explains procurement in a way any layperson would understand.

Don’t make it just about buying

Usually, my advice would be to keep your definition as simple as possible. But oversimplifying procurement inevitably ends up with procurement being described as “buying” or “purchasing” only.

I once witnessed a CPO dad telling his six-year-old daughter: “I do the shopping for my organization; I’m the one pushing the giant shopping trolley.” It’s a great image, but procurement does so much more than sourcing products and services.

Without trying to cram everything a procurement professional does into your answer (the other person will roll their eyes and walk away), try to capture some of the activities procurement does beyond sourcing: identifying cost savings, building relationships, managing risk, driving innovation and sustainability.

Procurement and the Christmas turkey

Let’s assume you’re sitting around the table at Christmas lunch when your partner’s elderly and inquisitive great-aunt asks you what procurement is. While you take a few seconds to consider your answer, your gaze rests on the magnificent turkey in front of you.

Why not use the turkey to help illustrate what procurement does? Let’s give it a try:

“Well, Aunt Edna, take this turkey as an example. Someone here had to go to the shops and buy that turkey – that’s simple enough. But imagine if you worked for a company that wanted to buy 100,000 turkeys.

It would be procurement’s job to first of all understand exactly what type of turkeys the company needs. Then we’d look around for suppliers who can not only reliably fulfill an order this large, but do it on time, with every turkey meeting quality expectations. Procurement would negotiate with that turkey supplier to get the best-possible price by seeking a bulk purchase discount.

But it’s not just about reliability, quality and price – it’s also about sustainability and social outcomes. Is there a supplier who breeds turkeys in a more sustainable way than others?

Are the turkeys cruelty-free and free-range?

Are the human workers paid fairly, and do they work in safe conditions?

Can we spend our turkey budget with a minority-owned supplier, or one that focuses on positive social outcomes such as hiring workers with disabilities?

What else can that supplier do for us? Is there some sort of innovation they can come up with (such as cheaper or more sustainable packaging) that would be beneficial for both my company and the supplier?

So you see, Edna … (oh, she’s fallen asleep).”

Further reading

Looking for more inspiration to help you explain procurement to others? Check out these other resources:

UNA is a Group Purchasing Organisation that generates cost savings for members across a wide range of products and services (including Christmas turkeys).