In this updated article we will explore some thoughts regarding what is expected of today's supply management professionals, and share with you some ideas regarding how your team can, with limited investment, be transformed into Procurement Superheroes.
Today's successful supply organization is a far cry from those of a decade ago. Not only must the team be able to achieve standard goals of...
- Acquiring products and services with needed quality at the lowest total cost;
- Developing strong working relationships with internal business unit customers and suppliers;
- Delivering demonstrated and measurable operational value to their business unit customers; and
- Creating year-over-year financial savings for stakeholders
But given the realities of today's "jobless economic recovery", procurement groups must now do this while... (i) Operating with just two-thirds to three-quarters of historical staff; and (ii) Simultaneously managing more-aggressive annual savings targets, increased corporate visibility, increased internal customer demands, shorter product life cycles, global supply markets, outsource service providers, and new e-sourcing technologies.
So the challenge is to 'do more with less'. Strategic sourcing, incorporation of "best practices", and eProcurement tools may help to shift resources towards strategic initiatives, but in the end, the capabilities of the individual procurement professional will drive productivity improvement.
So what we need are professionals who know the business, are recognized direct contributors to business success, know how to employ procurement best practices and technologies, are adept at building interpersonal relationships and high-performance teams, can effectively manage change, and can continuously 'transform' themselves as advances in procurement practices require. Wow...this is definitely a job for today's Procurement Superhero!
At this point you may say, "That's great, I'll take a dozen to go..." You know these Superheroes because you have one or two on your staff. They are your "go-to" players when the game is on the line and they are the main reason you get any sleep at night. You also know that these Superheroes are rare, expensive and hard to find. So how does a company or governmental agency get a team of procurement superheroes if you can't recruit them "ready-made" from the market? The key is to build your own Procurement Superheroes.
Leading organizations are meeting the 'do more with less' challenge by putting new teeth in their annual individual & team development programs. They have come to realize that by continually investing over time in a concerted and measurable development program, they can build their own procurement superheroes at a fraction of the cost of trying to hire them elsewhere and integrating them into their business.
So what are some of the key steps to "putting teeth" in your professional development programs? Here are three strategies which you can employ...
First, begin by defining in detail (with quantifiable measures and goals) what a superhero in each position should look like and be able to accomplish: What must this team and/or position be able to do better than anyone else? What are their core mission and work activities? What are the resulting critical skills and capabilities that each position/team must have to excel at their core mission and work activities?
What are the baseline skills that all positions need to perform effectively? (The table below illustrates three categories for skill development and is based on research Strategic Procurement Solutions performed using data from our client engagements and two marketplace studies)
Procurement Functional Skills
Sourcing Strategy Development
Supply Chain Integration
Supplier Relationship Management
Customer Relationship Management
Core Business Skills
Business process knowledge
External customer and market knowledge
Product and service knowledge
Supplier and supply market knowledge
Technology and system knowledge
Business financial knowledge
Group problem solving
Managing resistance to change
Coaching and feedback
Effective meeting management
Next, you need to determine where each of your team members is in their individual superhero transformation journeys: A foundational step is to conduct formal skills and capabilities testing (such as Strategic Procurement Solutions' own Online Supply Management Skills Diagnostic assessment).
It is important to qualify the subjective test results by interviewing personnel to determine subjective performance factors. Once staff strengths (both group, role, and individual) strengths and weaknesses are identified, we then prioritize individual and group development needs.
Subsequently, we must use the foregoing information to create individual development plans "with teeth". These plans will need to balance long-term goals (3-5 years) with near-term (semiannual) action and measurement. There are many unique, effective and low cost ways to put real teeth into a development program. Strategic Procurement Solutions often helps our clients leverage internal, pre-existing procurement and materials management staff strengths and best practice capabilities by: (i) Partnering personnel with skilled peers for project-specific on-the-job training; and (ii) Establishing internal "Centers of Excellence" or "University" sources of current literature on "best practices" and industry trends.
Our client organizations also utilize Strategic Procurement Solutions by:
(i) Establishing a baseline skill development training program for new staff (such as our three day Strategic Procurement Management Training™ workshop);
(ii) Making available more advanced training in specialty skills;
(iii) Supporting purposeful participation in external associations like ISM, NCMA, SIG, IACCM, APICS...;
(iv) Tapping into the capabilities and training programs of key suppliers (like 20 different onsite or online training programs from Strategic Procurement Solutions);
(v) Establishing a formal job rotation program and career development path for business unit and procurement staff; and
(vi) Supporting professional certifications like CPSM, MCIPS, CSM, CPIM, LEAN Six Sigma, etc.
The impact of training can be assessed by measuring the value and effectiveness of each development technique & continually improving. Methods Strategic Procurement Solutions uses to evaluate training effectiveness for our clients can include:
Level 1 Validation - Following each training event an in-class participant survey can be performed and the results analyzed.
Level 2 Validation - Pre and Post-Training testing of participants can validate the actual knowledge transfer which occurs through the training episode.
Level 3 Validation - Approximately six months after a training event, some groups like to conduct a survey to determine which of the learned skills are being used in each participant's work life. Surveys can be performed through an interview process or via on online survey tool (Strategic Procurement Solutions can do either).
Finally, it is important to tie staff development back to improvements in core departmental success measurements such as (i) Internal customer and supplier satisfaction; (ii) Supplier performance; (iii) Cost savings; or (iv) Spend under strategic management.
Building a Procurement Superhero does not happen by accident. It requires a commitment to professional development and a concerted investment over time. But, when combined with best practices, professional development is the key to meet the 'do more with less' challenge.
For more ways to Build Procurement Superheroes, readers may email us at Info@StrategicProcurementSolutions.com We're happy to provide information about our Supply Management Training Workshops or Online Employee Skills Testing services. We've recently added CPSM/CSM exam preparation workshops to our offerings too. And our firm also provides companies and governmental agencies with skilled procurement staff in a project/temp mode or a direct hire recruiting mode.
About the Author: Robert Dunn, MBA, C.P.M. is one of Strategic Procurement Solutions' founders. His 37 years in procurement leadership covered management positions in the Government, Technology and Financial Services sectors; culminating in a role directing all of BankAmerica Corporation's procurement operations. He has served as President of two ISM/NAPM affiliates, and taught supply chain management at the post-graduate level for California State University - Hayward and St. Mary's College - San Francisco. He has worked with major corporate and governmental clients in the consulting industry for the past 18 years. Robert has worked on major procurement initiatives in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.