Many companies understand procurement's value can extend beyond tactical buying and into strategic cost and risk management; however approaches for managing talent capable of delivering on that strategic potential has not kept pace. When talent is addressed, the focus is on changing the individual (e.g., behavior/professional skills). There is a better way to transform procurement into a talent incubator: shift procurement from the place you're from to the place to get ahead. This strategy inevitably requires investing in advanced supply management tools to enable procurement professionals to be effective and efficient. Strategic procurement organizations have unique opportunities to offer employees who demonstrate business leadership potential. Below are two key examples:
- The work scope often transcends functions and regions, enabling employees to better understand the business across its suppliers, operations and finance silos―ultimately making the individual a valuable source for best practices.
- Global procurement influences large spend categories, putting individuals in close contact with senior business leaders and enabling them to build influential relationships.
However, these opportunities cannot be realized unless procurement provides insights and results that the business cannot easily obtain. Imagine for a moment trying to convince an all-star athlete to join your professional sports team. When the athlete asks for scouting reports and equipment, you tell him to "Google" the other teams and figure out on your own whom to contact internally. Upon seeing your tools, he realizes the systems were better at his university. This is not unlike trying to attract someone with the ideal balance of strategic thinking, analytical category expertise and collaborative leadership using procurement tools that can't provide timely and accurate information to manage supply relationships. The situation is further exacerbated with the increased rate of baby boomers retiring, Gen X'ers raking management roles and Millennials entering the work force. The new generation of supply management professionals grew up with the Internet and expects access to sophisticated technology tools and market intelligence, especially given the rise of productivity objectives per headcount. The good news is that a new generation of tools are available to help supply management professionals mitigate risks to their supply chains. Failure to take advantage of the latest technology and market intelligence may become a risk in itself, creating not only short-term supply challenges but a long-term talent management crises. It's safe to say the most often-cited reason for not investing in supply management technology is cost, but in the end, how much is lost not only in traditional savings but also in the multiplier effect top talent can bring to an organization? Back to the sports analogy: Getting the all-star athlete to sign without access to robust technology will be at best difficult, and retaining them unlikely. Why should we expect all-star business talent to be different? There are numerous case examples documenting significant ROI with supply management tool investments, but the value goes beyond traditional unit price or staffing savings. Repositioning your organization as the place for top talent to get ahead should be a critical part of the technology investment discussion.
A founding member of Reed Elsevier's Global Procurement Team, Eric Walsworth, Director of Supply Management, helped transform their dispersed procurement resources across geographical and organizational lines into a central spend management department. Eric recently joined LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions, one of Reed Elsevier’s divisions, to help clients leverage market intelligence to address supply risk concerns.