Tag Archives: strategic partnerships

How to Build Procurement Influence

We successfully leveraged the COVID-era attention we got – now how does Procurement remain relevant and authoritative in the long term? Alex Saric shares how to build the influence to make your presence felt.


The pandemic has had widespread adverse effects, from health to finances to education. Yet for procurement leaders it has also been an opportunity to shine. As supply disruptions, cash flow and protecting margins became boardroom priorities and front page news, procurement was called upon to save the day. And for the most part the function has risen to the challenge. Companies and citizens should be thankful.

Yet to capitalise on their moment in the sun and remain on the board meeting agenda, CPOs must demonstrate how they can contribute long term value as well; how they can help companies restore growth via innovation; how they can improve the brand by driving CSR improvements; and much more. To do so, CPOs have to build their influence within the organisation.

Influence is Essential

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the more strategic objectives procurement can support increasingly involve other departments and/or suppliers. Supporting company cash objectives requires collaboration with finance. Driving innovation requires collaboration with production, sales and suppliers. Sustainability often must be aligned with related departments and involves supplier collaboration. For that alignment and collaboration to take place, influence is key.

Second, increasing procurement’s impact requires transformation, with accompanying investments in people and technology. Digital transformation helps free capacity via automation, improve decision-making with better access to insights and scale collaboration by connecting stakeholders. The number one obstacle identified in a Forrester Survey to getting a digital transformation off the ground is executive buy-in / budget. Influence is essential to overcoming that initial obstacle.

The successful path to building that influence will certainly vary based on the organisational culture, individual personalities and other factors. That said, there are some common factors I have found to be important.

Sell the Vision

Too many organisations don’t comprehend how procurement can add strategic value and contribute to many objectives. It is essential to craft and clearly articulate a compelling vision for procurement and the various ways it can add value. And not just the what, but the how and the path to get there, including tangible benefits that can be achieved at each stage. Particularly in times of crisis, there will be resistance to any vision that requires years of investment to see the results. Explain precisely how procurement can deliver on or contribute to each objective, what’s needed and the timeframe.

When presenting the vision you should be simultaneously making the business case for necessary investments. You are selling your vision: remember that the best sales people understand how to speak to (after first listening to) their audience. There are a few “tricks” I’d recommend. First, build the case from the bottom up. The ROI on procurement investments is often tremendous and leaders naturally balk at a large top level number. But by explaining each value driver separately, each with a small contribution that seems logical and is easy to accept, you can build up the overall number in a way that leaders understand and accept. Show the typical range of benefits for each driver (vendors or consultants can help you with this information) and lean towards the low end on most, to avoid setting goals you may not achieve and increase executive confidence in the overall ROI.

Second, focus on value drivers that will resonate based on your current organizational pains. If cost containment is top of mind for the board, explaining how investments will bring more spend under management and the typical savings on each dollar that is managed is a logical place. For others, minimising supply disruptions or compliance costs may be top of mind. This helps the message resonate.

Lastly, back up the business case with example of companies (ideally competitors) that have achieved this. That plays on human emotion – anecdotes resonate and no one wants to feel their competitor is outdoing them. Together this approach is very likely to result in a convincing business case supporting your vision.

Show them the Money

Painting that clear vision is essential, but can damage your influence if not followed through. Hence, it is key that you deliver quick wins to demonstrate the potential, thereby building organisational support and credibility. Be sure that is built into your plan. What those early wins should be will vary by organisation. For some, it may be key to drive some quick savings. For others it might be improving visibility in the supply chain so they’re not disrupted and dealing with some of the issues they’ve had during COVID. By showing early progress against your vision, you will gain tremendous credibility as a trustworthy partner. You can then scale up over time, to more processes, objectives, spend, etc.

Values Matter

I have found that demonstrating certain values is as important as demonstrating results – you need both. Top of the list for me is ownership. If procurement is to build its influence, it needs to take ownership of objectives. Naturally, procurement will rarely be able to control everything required to succeed. That lack of control is often an argument against taking ownership. Resist any such pushback. Yes, there is risk to taking ownership of a result you can’t fully control. But the real risk is failing to deliver because of internal confusion. I’ve seen far too many initiatives fail because no one felt ownership and hence no one stepped up to steer the effort and course correct when needed. Building a culture of ownership, in procurement or any other function for that matter, is key to building influence. Your team won’t lead if they don’t feel a sense of ownership. If they do, you will establish yourself as the go-to team for strategic initiatives.

Less controversial but equally important, is demonstrating integrity. The more success depends on others, the more integrity is key. We may have moved to a heavily virtual workplace, but relationships are still key to success in many areas, especially building influence. Unless your team demonstrates integrity in every interaction, you will struggle to build influence. This depends more on your people than any policy of course, so it’s harder to fix if an issue exists, but leaders must insist on it and jump on any potential shortcomings.

Building influence is an art, not a science. If procurement is to make its move from the backroom to the boardroom permanent, CPOs will need to master it. For all its horrors, the pandemic is a rare opportunity to elevate the function. By painting a clear, compelling vision, effectively executing against the first stages and demonstrating the right values, CPOs will be well positioned to do just that.

4 Factors To Consider When Upgrading your Procurement OS

An upgraded operating system (OS) takes the procurement function out of the traditional back-office role, and into that of a valued strategic business partner.  

By Preechar Bowonkitwanchai /Shutterstock

That little flag in the corner of your laptop screen, the red exclamation mark on your phone, the middle-of-night system message. You know what it means- it’s time to upgrade your operating system.

Yes, it’s painful to exit your programs, save your work, and sadly close all 35 of your vacation-planning web browser tabs.  You sit, you wait, then you reboot and possibly even get reacquainted with your digital systems again. No one wants to do it, but in the end, we all are all thankful to those glowing, pulsing indicators for pushing us and guiding us through the process for that much-needed refresh.

Things run so smoothly now, don’t they?

What if we received the same upgrade reminders in real life?  What would your red exclamation mark tell you about your procurement operating system? Is it time for an upgrade?  Almost definitely! An upgraded operating system takes the procurement function out of the traditional back-office role, and into that of a valued strategic business partner.  

The transformation, however, can neither happen overnight nor without setting the right goals and planning.  You’ll need to close some browser windows and maybe lose a few saved files in the process. In our decade-long process of co-creating this operating model with leading global companies, we have identified four key enablers required to help you upgrade. Read on and trust me, it will all run so much more smoothly in the end.

Structure of Upgraded Procurement OS

1. Strategic Category Management

At the heart of the transformation is the shift that procurement has to make from being reactive problem solvers to proactive solution providers. This is not possible without category managers or business-aligned spend managers aligning with the business, understanding strategic priorities and building relationships with stakeholders. When category managers proactively reach out to the business, they begin to demonstrate value and finding a place at the table will become easier.

Building a centralised Center of Excellence (CoE) can help category managers develop the required skills. The CoE can provide the necessary support such as tools, methodologies, templates, market intelligence and coaching.

2. Centralised Procurement Help Desk

On any given day, procurement functions are inundated with queries and work requests. As procurement transitions to operate more strategically, it is critical to find an effective way to service internal and external stakeholders.

Setting up a centralised procurement desk can help channelise the requests to various specialist teams such as:

  • Strategic support team that can be responsible for services such as market research, category strategy development, stakeholder workshops and portfolio development
  • Source to manage execution team thatcan manage the execution of activities such as creation of request for proposals, supplier management and contract authoring
  • Transactional execution team thatcan manage back-office operations such as purchase order management and invoice-to-pay processing

3. Technology Accelerators

The digitisation of transactional and repetitive procurement activities is a low-hanging fruit for organizations as it will release the bandwidth of resources for more proactive, strategic planning. Further, digitisation can help identify patterns, norms and trends leading to a procurement playbook.

Supply chain management is experiencing a quantum shift because of emerging technologies such as internet of things, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. Adoption of these technologies, is critical to upgrading procurement’s operating model, but it should be planned well. It is necessary to define the overarching vision and strategy, and to then evaluate how technology fits into the roadmap.

4. Implementation Approach

The final piece of the puzzle is the actual re-organization of the procurement function into the new operating model. It is a myth that technology by itself will be enough to integrate all processes. Putting together the right team, getting executive sponsorship, ensuring alignment with the vision and finding collaborative external partners are all critical success factors in upgrading to the optimal OS for your organisation.

This is where the smart phone operating system analogy falls a bit short- unfortunately, we, as the procurement team, can’t expect to wake up to a fully-restored bug-free system- good results take time. It is necessary to plan for adequate time required for the new model to mature and assimilate into the organisation’s new way of working.  If this is done correctly, your stakeholders will certainly experience the thrill of a significantly improved experience. 

Now is the time to upgrade your framework and develop the future infrastructure for procurement operations.

Are you ready to push the upgrade button? Learn more by reading WNS’ Next Generation Procurement Model Whitepaper.   

WNS are sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world.  

Unlikely Alliances on the Rise in Disrupted Markets

Amazon’s disruption of the grocery, food delivery and home-care industry could spark unlikely alliances. And these alliances could help take the fight to disruptors.

With Amazon’s expansion of its grocery deal with Morrisons, its launch of Amazon Restaurants, and a rumoured housekeeping service, incumbents could see unusual partnerships as a means to fend off the retail juggernaut.   

Amazon’s recent advances into the homecare and food delivery market, have followed the much vaunted expansion of its pre-existing delivery deal with Morrisons. The company has also recently announced plans to introduce ‘Amazon Go‘, a shopping experience without checkouts.

There is also a rumoured launch of a new housekeeping service, as well as Amazon Restaurants and Amazon Fresh services. These moves could result in incumbent players taking drastic measures to combat the e-commerce giant.

This is according to Nick Miller, head of FMCG at Crimson & Co, who predicts that Amazon’s competitors could form unlikely partnerships in order to avoid losing ground. 

Shopping on the Go

Amazon announced a couple of weeks ago that it would be extending its existing delivery deal with Morrisons’ to offer one-hour grocery deliveries to selected postcodes in London and Hertfordshire to Amazon Prime Now customers. The service has been named “Morrisons at Amazon.”  

Meanwhile, advertisements were seen in the US media two weeks ago for ‘Home Assistants,’ who would work with customers to tidy people’s homes, do laundry, put groceries away and “assure that customers return to an errand-free home.”

If true, this new service would be another convenience to Amazon Prime Now customers. These customers already have access to Amazon Restaurants (a home food delivery service), as well as both Morrisons at Amazon and Amazon Fresh for same-day deliveries on a massive range of fresh and frozen grocery goods.

When you further consider the potential for an Amazon Go grocery store in the UK, it’s clear the online giant is keen to expand its reach. 

Convenience is King

Miller commented on the moves, and what it means its competitors. “It’s pretty clear that Amazon’s aim is to be the one-stop-shop for all domestic-life conveniences. Whether that be shopping, groceries, takeaways or cleaning, they want to lead the market. It’s an incredibly obvious and yet aggressive strategy,” says Miller.

“Convenience is the key word. The customer, for an annual fee (a Prime subscription), has a central platform where they can access a wide variety of services and products at their leisure, and with confidence in Amazon’s established reputation.

“As this service becomes more and more engrained amongst users, loyalties to competitors will increasingly be challenged. Why go to four places when one does it all?” 

While on paper these plans are impressive, there are questions Amazon needs to address. The key consideration is that these markets often entail more complex service demands and delivery requirements.

Services like Handy and Hassle are dominating players in the homecare market. Deliveroo, has developed a leading position in London’s ‘last-mile’ food delivery market, but this has recently seen threats from Uber with the entry of UberEats.

Meanwhile, many of the big supermarkets maintain grocery delivery services. Ocado, the online grocery specialist which supports Morrisons’ website, saw its shares fall by 8.5 per cent in the wake of the Morrisons news. 

Innovating to Remain Competitive

As Amazon refines and expands its services, these incumbent players will likely need to innovate to remain competitive. Ocado, for example, is likely to suffer considerably as Amazon moves into the food delivery market.

Companies looking to remain competitive will have to match Amazon on convenience, as well as breadth of offering. However, there is potential for innovation across the space that could help organisations here. And this is also where the unusual alliances could come in.

Miller highlights how a ‘last-mile’ deliverer, such as Deliveroo, could partner with a supermarket to offer grocery shopping and takeaways in one service. There’s strong potential and attractiveness in making this service possible. It could also put both in a position to challenge Amazon on ‘Restaurants’ and ‘Fresh’.

As Miller also states, both parties would see major benefits from such an alliance. Deliveroo would access a wider customer base, while the supermarket would get expertise in ‘last-mile’ delivery.

It goes to demonstrate how unlikely partnerships could provide a route to superior service in delivery. Joining forces with local transport businesses, such as taxi firms, could also provide a boost to delivery speeds.

Either way, thinking laterally and tapping into pre-existing networks could help companies to compete with Amazon.  

Still Obstacles for Alliances

These ideas, however, do not come without their own obstacles.

Miller commented on some of these, “These kind of innovations would undoubtedly bring a number of logistical challenges. Not only the alignment of the delivery chain to enable the fastest and best possible experience for the customer, but also the coordination of logistics and digital platforms between two companies.

“However, approaching the problem from this angle could prove vital for any company attempting to see off Amazon.”