Thursday 3 July 2014

The Conflicting Priorities of the Modern Procurement Professional

By Steven Low

2014 is not an easy year to be a Procurement Professional. Gone are the days of locking the meeting room door and not letting the poor supplier leave until you got what you wanted (did that ever happen?). 

Nowadays, procurement is such a lever to the outside world – one which every organisation needs to deal with to be successful. This has meant that you and your fellow professionals now have to comprehend and make sense of the most amazing amount of priorities, many of them conflicting.

Your business partners in the organisation need clear and unambiguous contracts, minimum risk and ultimately some savings against their budget. Core elements of the role you would argue, but the last few years have seen more focus than ever in whom we do business with, when and how we are conducting it. Add to this the massive surge of pressure to deal with small-to-medium enterprises and spend money locally. Does that fit with savings? Does that lower your risk? What about long term versus short term contracts? Arguments can be made that it doesn’t necessarily increase them, but I would say it’s not true in all cases. SMEs bend and re-shape the risk and costs.

So, while dealing with the core elements of your role (strong contracts, minimum risk and savings) you now have to factor in SMEs through splitting up your contracts to make them more attractive or positively leaning towards SME involvement.

However, many organisations look to procurement for active supplier management at various levels, depending on the procurement team’s maturity and the depth of the processes in place. More than a day job in itself sometimes... but we are not finished there!

Being that facilitator to the outside world, you have a relationship management role – counsellor if you like, between the business areas and the suppliers themselves. Often you end up playing the role of mediator to quell disputes or issues between the two. If you have a strong relationship with both, you earn the trust and remit to perform this role to the advancement of both parties.

We’re done, right? No, not yet. Increasingly, dealing with sustainability issues, environmental concerns and overall social responsibility of the supply base fall at the feet of the procurement professional. Pre-employment screening (of the supplier employees that may come onto your premises), invoice payments, PO approvals, supplier collaborations or joint ventures all while keeping up with legal developments and EU directives mean you’ll be plenty busy for the rest of 2014. It might not all be easy, but it gives the well-rounded procurement professional a huge opportunity to build an impressive array of skills. So, when you look up from your desk and wonder why on earth it’s December already – it’s because time flies when you're having fun – and learning new skills!

What have I missed? It’s been a little while since I have been a ‘buyer’. What new priorities are you and your fellow colleagues now focussing on within your organisation?


  1. Hi Steven,
    Thanks for sharing this article.Very effective and helpful content. I agree that every organization must deal with these carefully.

  2. Hi Steven,

    Pertaining to the statement:
    "Add to this the massive surge of pressure to deal with small-to-medium enterprises and spend money locally"

    My organisation does the reverse of this. We practice leverage spending via global vendor consolidation.