Kevin Nash is the Vice President Chief Procurement Officer at Health Care Services Corporation, a Blue Cross Blue Shield Company. As an experienced executive in procurement, sourcing and supply chain operations, Kevin manages over 100 people who oversee a wide range of functions from sourcing and contracting to regulatory requirements. Kevin shares his tips to keep a large team organized, his outlook on the growing role of procurement in organizations, and his advice for those looking to be better procurement professionals and team leaders.
Can you talk about your background and education--how did you get involved in procurement?
Like many procurement professionals, I stumbled upon procurement early in my career and found it to be an interesting and exciting area to work. After graduating with a degree in engineering, I started my career at GE supporting a manufacturing process. While in manufacturing, I began to focus on supply chain because we were experiencing frequent supply chain and inventory issues that were significantly impacting the ability to meet the production schedule. After finishing my MBA and leaving GE, I joined a consulting firm and continued to focus on supply chain with an emphasis on procurement. While in consulting, I transitioned from focusing on the supply chain for direct material to supply chain and procurement in service-orientated companies.
Please share a little more about your day-to-day role and responsibilities as the Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer at Health Care Service Corporation?
Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) is a large Blue Cross Blue Shield company operating in five states. My role in the company is to support the different activities taking place with suppliers. I lead an organization with more than 100 people who perform sourcing, contracting, supplier management, third-party labor management, supplier diversity and the management of customer and regulatory requirements relating to the utilization of suppliers.
My day-to-day activity varies significantly but there is an underlying agenda with two high priorities. Priority one is to keep my organization running well, continually improve and deliver more value. The second priority is to drive or facilitate significant changes relating to the utilization of suppliers. A few examples of the projects for the second priority include the sale of a subsidiary to a supplier, enhancing the governance process when sharing member data with suppliers, shifting work to suppliers onshore and offshore, compliance with the regulatory oversight required of suppliers and establishing a stronger technical infrastructure to support the interaction with suppliers.
You have worked in procurement for some of the largest and most well-known organizations in the world. What advice do you have for staying organized and meeting your goals?
Alignment and integration with the internal business customers are two critical skills to build in every procurement organization. Procurement is a support function, therefore the objective is to make the organizations that Procurement supports be successful. My team is very focused on our internal customers and we are an extension of their team. Plus, it is easier to meet a goal when the goal is shared with others. For example, a very important internal customer is the IT organization. My organization aligns and integrates with IT. We understand their goals, objectives and the schedules they must meet. We enable IT to be successful through the utilization of suppliers. We think about our IT customer every day and do everything we can to make that organization successful.
At the Chicago CPO Meet and Eat event you'll be leading a “day-in-the-life" discussion on how shifting priorities change based on the maturity of the procurement organization. Could you talk a little more in-depth about the topic?
I have been at HCSC for almost five years. During that time, the procurement organization has significantly changed. We are much larger, we are structured differently, we have many new leaders, new job titles, new compensation structure, our systems have all changed, the scope of responsibility has changed, our role in the company changed and our relationship to the organizations we support has changed. Almost everything has changed. During all this change, my job has evolved and my priorities shifted. I thought it would be helpful to discuss how my role and how I spend my time has changed as my organization matured and our role expanded.
You have a background in supplier and third-party risk management. What are some examples of how technology has changed or impacted the way organizations manage third-party risk?
Five years ago, my organization was not responsible for supplier management or the management of third-party risk. So, our starting point in this area was close to zero. But even over the last five years, technology has impacted many aspects of supplier and risk management. Technology is required when doing business with suppliers. As our supply base has grown and work is performed in numerous countries, it is critical that the technical infrastructure is secure. We share some of the most private information about our members with suppliers. This is called PHI, Protected Health Information. I work very closely with our Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to make sure the technical infrastructure between us and our suppliers is appropriately managed. For example, requiring suppliers to be HiTrust certified was an effort lead by the CISO and enabled by Procurement.
In your role, how do you define success?
This is what comes to mind when I define success:
- Helping to make the company successful through the utilization of suppliers. This is big and not easily defined. The exact projects or initiatives change all the time and my organization must rapidly evolve to meet the needs of the business. A common phrase I use to get my organization to think this way is “if not us, who?” Success is being able to step in and help when it does not fit the traditional definition of procurement.
- Helping my internal business customers to achieve their goals.
- Supporting my boss and the finance organization’s goals.
- Successfully implementing the changes needed in my own organization.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to improve their skills as it relates to procurement?
- Don’t narrowly define procurement. This will limit your knowledge base, pigeon hole your career and your experience will become redundant over time.
- When given the opportunity, always step up to do more. You will gain enormous knowledge and experience. If the opportunity is not given to you, create it.
- Make sure you and your team do what is expected very well. This has to be a given and is the foundation of success.
Are there any notable advancements or changes in procurement that excite you?
I am excited that leading companies are realizing that the role of a Chief Procurement Officer is critical and has a significant impact on the performance of the company. The role of the CPO is rapidly evolving with broader responsibilities and higher expectations.
What is something that you wish more people knew about the role of Procurement?
There are a lot of skills required to be successful. It is not just about purchase orders, contracts and negotiations. I think this is exemplified when you look at the background of successful people in procurement. The backgrounds include finance, engineering, math, legal, supply chain, nursing, economics, humanities, business and many others.
If you could talk to your “younger self,” what would you warn yourself about or tell yourself to do differently?
Do not take everything so seriously, it all works out the way it should in the end.
Stacy Mendoza is a Digital Marketing Specialist with Sourcing Industry Group (SIG). Stacy began her career in market research as an editor for Hart Research Associates in Washington, D.C. Since moving back to Florida in 2014, she has worked in marketing and public relations, specializing in content creation, media relations and crisis communications. Stacy is a passionate volunteer who donates her time to help nonprofits develop marketing strategies and awareness campaigns. Stacy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Follow her on Twitter and tweet at @SIG_Stacy.