SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Patrick Fifer shares how important it is to manage your direct stakeholder relationships in the sourcing world.
Throughout the Certified Sourcing Professional program, stakeholder management was a critical aspect interwoven throughout the lessons. It is the area that I would like to focus on for my blog submission. As a sourcing professional, it is of the utmost importance to manage each of your stakeholder relationships equally to ensure that your categories' sourcing process is maintained appropriately. A consistent approach to managing each of your stakeholder relationships will help to avoid the exclusion of the sourcing professional due to the stakeholder:
- Not feeling important enough because there is a lack of constant communication.
- Not believing that the sourcing professional is needed (i.e., "I can just handle this on my own").
- Not acknowledging that their need is genuinely understood.
Before enrolling in this program, I didn't believe that I always treated all of my stakeholder relationships equally. As a Procurement Category Manager, I oversee the Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, and Facilities Operations categories of spend. The most considerable spend comes from Marketing. Due to that, I historically focused more of my efforts and attention on this category. I never had an explicit exclusion (that I know of) from my other types in a sourcing event due to this. Still, by taking the lessons focused on stakeholder management, I have learned what corrective actions I can take to strengthen my relationship with categories with less spending and may have perceived to require less attention. Although the spending levels may differ, that does not mean there are no areas that I can address with other categories, resulting in improvement and savings. By respecting and paying attention to those categories equally, I will be able to do so.
Identifying what type of stakeholders you are managing is an essential step within stakeholder management. Categorizing the stakeholder will help the sourcing professional understand how to involve the stakeholder in the sourcing process. For example, an internal stakeholder will be the most involved. They are the stakeholder that will communicate the needs and goals, provide feedback on submissions by suppliers, and ultimately make the selection (with a recommendation from the sourcing professional). Miscategorizing a stakeholder can lead to complications in the sourcing process as it means that a sourcing professional could take input and incorrectly apply it. That could lead to incorrect goals being worked towards and, ultimately, the wrong supplier is chosen.
As an indirect procurement group, our focus is almost entirely on internal stakeholders and the support of their needs to achieve the desired business results. It was educational to learn about other stakeholders, such as external stakeholders, that can also affect sourcing projects. For example, the media would be an external stakeholder that directly affects how some of our Marketing suppliers are chosen so that we can best manage relationships with news outlets and magazine publications.
Sourcing professionals need to identify stakeholders by the level of influence and interest that the stakeholder can have in a project. By ranking stakeholders and deciding where each falls in the Latent, Promoter, Apathetic, and Defenders quadrants, a sourcing professional, can determine which stakeholders he will need to engage and consult to increase their interest in a project and which will already have the desired appeal. I have begun thinking of stakeholders for my different projects by placing them in the groups mentioned above. This has helped me leverage an existing Promoter stakeholder and get them to attend a meeting with a Latent stakeholder to spark that interest and hopefully move them to the Promoter quadrant. In that same sense, I have learned that there will sometimes be Apathetic stakeholders who will remain in that quadrant throughout a project, which is okay. Not every stakeholder will move to a different quadrant by gaining interest or becoming more influential.
To summarize, stakeholder management is one of the most critical components of being a sourcing professional. I find that it is a task that I am working on even when I am not aware that I am doing so. By continuously engaging your stakeholders, even to find out how their day is going, a sourcing professional can maintain and develop a positive relationship, leading to more inclusion in sourcing events and better participation in projects, amongst other things.
The Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) Program is a 10-week course that focuses on the hard and soft skills of sourcing, including strategic sourcing and outsourcing methodologies, as well as best practices in negotiations.
Patrick Fifer is the Category Procurement Manager for the Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, and Facilities Operations departments at CoStar Group, Inc., the world leader in commercial real estate information. Patrick has held Procurement positions in the Engineering, Construction, and Real Estate industries. His skills include in analytics, cross departmental collaboration, third-party contract reviews, sourcing events, and purchasing among others. Patrick graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration focused on Logistics and Marketing from the University of Tennessee. He also received his Minor in German from the University of Tennessee.