I am the Chief Sourcing & Procurement Officer for a Fortune 50 firm whose headquarters is in New York City. Since beginning my tenure, I have had the benefit of hiring the best-and-the-brightest minds that to support my vision of the organization without geographic constraint. While I am a “builder”, I have fewer staff than I started due in large part to my technology vision, corresponding roadmap and focus on talent rather than typical industry benchmarks, for example, a unit cost calculation.
My first 90 days were spent understanding my customer. Rather than assuming and adopting legacy and dated behaviors focused exclusively on savings, I partnered with my colleagues as a trusted advisor by understanding what THEY required of my function. Jointly, we crafted a few, well-dressed metrics that became the foundation of the departmental strategy.
Since our firm is in a growth mode, speed to market (organically and by acquisition) we settled on metrics to fuel growth, including, self-service and a bi-modal approach to sourcing. Gone are the days where Sourcing & Procurement has a heavy hand in transactions. Our eProcurement portal contains buying channels we designed in concert with our stakeholders. Behind each channel is a robust data collection and analytics process. My sourcing professionals monitor customer buying trends but play no role in approving or marshalling the purchase. Self-service empowers my customers so I can do more with less.
We refer to the bifurcation of sourcing support between innovative, fast-paced, market driven and legacy business-as-usual (BAU) support as bimodal. Both sectors require support and attention, but vastly different strategies.
Legacy systems and spend categories, the likes of, for example, data center support, contingent labor and application support lend themselves to multi-year agreements that derive year-over-year financial improvement: not glamorous. I am involved in many of these deals because of the sheer volume, from a spend perspective, and the complexities of the underlying metrics. Conversely, we developed a specialized team to support key customers that focus on innovative solutions for our end customers. These seasoned sourcing & procurement agents are empowered to make decisions, agile (certified and practically) and domain experts. Customers appreciate the flexibility, forward-thinking and expertise of this team.
From as staff perspective, we are strategic thinkers: never satisfied with the status quo. My staff although lean in numbers is exceptional in skill. I encourage associates to join my organization to contribute, learn and develop their careers. Associates who show willingness have the opportunity to rotate through assignments, take on additional responsibilities and manage staff. Management roles are not awarded as a byproduct of tenure: rather they are reserved for leaders or those who have the potential to lead. We recognize that associates will “outgrow” our organization. I am honored when associates transition to leadership roles outside I my organization.
Approximately fifty percent of my time is spent meeting with my customers. I attend strategy sessions, supplier management meetings and embrace key opportunities to participate in meetings with the business. For without the consumers of Sourcing & Procurement services, I have no purpose. These meeting promote our departmental value and provide unique perspectives back to my staff. I am a valued member of my customer’s leadership team. I seize opportunities to invite others from my staff to accompany me at these meetings, as a guest. This is, also, a key element of our succession planning.
Forty percent of my time is spent among my staff: I am eager to understand and support their projects and contribute to their success either through mentorship or other development activities. Touching people (not literally) is a critical leadership attribute. Beyond work-related items, I get to understand each one, personally. This time allotment includes staff meeting covering individual and departmental performance.
The remainder of my time is immersed in strategy: inquiry to future trends, industry forums, data analytics, planning and formulating plans for the future state. Since all of our departmental metrics are resident in a cloud-based reporting dashboard, conversations are data centric. Since data analytics is critical to success, we dedicate resources to the science of understanding and interpreting data for the good of our department and firm. Dashboards, reports, graph are all automated and resident on handheld devices of my team members. Strategy is data-based.
Gone are the days of the heavy-handed sourcing and procurement organizations. These dinosaurs were defined by business-crippling policies, outdated or irrelevant metrics, non-adherence reporting, “catalog management” and (to some extent) “savings”. The success of the broader organization is critically dependent on the development and maintenance of a lean, customer-focused, data driven sourcing & procurement organization led by visionary leadership.