Designing a New Breed of Procurement Professional - Part 1

What does traditional procurement talent look like, and how do we transition to the new skills necessary in today's quickly-changing environment?

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Filling today’s advanced procurement roles is a much greater challenge than many expect. Whether a procurement department is trying to fill a vacancy on the staff or simply failing to deliver the expected level of impact in an evolving organization, the underlying issue is often the same: they need to find the right talent. It takes a new breed of procurement talent to fill the roles in modern procurement organizations.

The expectations of the procurement department have evolved and go much deeper than running auctions, controlling rogue spend, and counting their 10% price savings.

As organizations grow and attempt to fill key sourcing positions, many have found it challenging to find the right candidates. We get plenty of resumes, but most are “the same old purchasing candidates,” and those aren’t the folks we seek.

How to Spot a Traditional Procurement Candidate

I am not referring to age when I say the same old candidates; I mean a set of profiles and resumes that we’ve consistently seen for years. In traditional thinking, some may consider these candidates as great fits. They tend to have years of experience directly in the purchasing function, but there are some undesirable characteristics and components of their experience that become apparent in interviews.

Many traditional candidates are reliant on administration roles and need command and control efforts. In conversations with candidates like these, one can sense an emphasis on proper protocol of bids and process over results. Often their overall view on buyer-supplier relations is very much insular and secretive, even adversarial in some cases.

These folks may be fine to process POs, write contracts, and develop RFPs and scorecards, but they haven’t evolved into a procurement professional that can drive real value in the modern space.

How does the New Breed Differ?

Today's challenges include things like digital transformation, improving procurement's ability to be agile and responsive to the business, and obtaining value beyond cost.

Sales-Minded

Modern procurement/purchasing organizations seek a variety of skills across a broad spectrum. Perhaps at or near the top of the list is actually skill in sales. The new breed of successful procurement professionals must be able to sell their ideas to suppliers, sell themselves to internal clients, and sell their results to their leaders. The internal clients might be spend owners or they might be end users, but either must be sold on the methods, suppliers, and agreements that are being proposed.

Efficient Communicator

Closely related to this is an ability to communicate well. A candidate who cannot convey his or her ideas cannot sell and thus cannot succeed in today’s procurement role. Stakeholders who might not be enamored with procurement will certainly not entertain a proposal from someone whose ideas aren't professionally delivered.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

The second part of this post covers the rest of this issue and complete the blueprint for today’s new breed of procurement professional.

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WANT ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON NECESSARY PROCUREMENT SKILL SETS? 

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


As Vice President of Operations at Corporate United, Gary Como is responsible for identifying new solutions for the Corporate United portfolio, defining the sourcing strategies, overseeing the strategic sourcing process and developing relationships with key suppliers and partners.