Procurement and supply chain as a profession has come a long way. The professionals are called buyers. From the early days of traditional purchasing to the era of strategic buying, the profession is fast getting the respect it deserves among business leaders and owners. in many organizations, both public sector and private sector, procurement leaders hold executive management positions while in some others, procurement professionals sit on the board, to advise it on company’s spend matrices among other things. This recognition and career growth of procurement and supply chain explains why many organizations including oil and gas companies hire graduate trainees for procurement and supply chain in the same manner as they hire graduate trainees for engineering and other technical professions. I was one such graduate trainee for procurement and supply chain in 1997.
At one of such classes, the trainer requested everybody to give an account of what motivated them to apply for procurement and supply chain and their career expectations. The responses were quite interesting responses such as: ‘oh my dad was procurement professional in UAC and he was highly successful’, ‘Growing up, my friend’s dad was Head of procurement in an oil company and they had so much money’. More responses: ‘my motivation is to build a successful career in supply chain’; ‘I understand that procurement people are very rich and highly respected in the society’; ‘I love commerce both in theory and in practice and usually those who engage in it make more money than other professions’ etc. one underlying idea in most of the comments bordered on money.
However, we often advise young buyers to aspire for professional excellence rather than focus on monetary rewards. Some even feel that procurement and supply chain is lucrative because of sharp practices engaged into by some unscrupulous persons. I insist that most people who engage in sharp practices are found out before long and summarily dismissed by the organization.
At this juncture, I hereby present a discussion culled from SUPPLY MANAGEMENT, the CIPS magazine on FIVE TOP TIPS FOR NEW BUYERS by Francis Churchill. I hope it will help young professionals to consolidate their professional skills and build an enduring career in procurement and supply chain. He wrote as follows:
New procurement professionals need to be tenacious to progress, according to a CIPS SM Awards finalist.
“From personal experience I’ve worked on some extremely difficult categories and you just need to keep going to drive those benefits forward,” said Daniel Golds, sourcing lead at British Steel and a shortlister for the 2018 CIPS SM Young Professional of the Year Award.
Golds, who is coming to the end of his two-year graduate scheme and is moving into a permanent position, joined British Steel at the “ideal time”, just after it was sold by Tata and became a standalone business.
Speaking at the eWorld Procurement and Supply Conference, Golds said: “Pretty much overnight contracts that were for a global business were suddenly hived down into a much more local business where we have a lot more control.
“I’ve used [this] to really raise the profile of procurement and develop my career at the same time.”
Here are Golds’ five tips for new procurement professionals:
1. Understand existing practices
“The key message here is ask why something is happening,” said Golds. Use the “five whys” to find out the root cause of why a process happens the way it does. Often the response will simply be, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it’.
While this might make sense, you still need to be able to legitimately challenge existing behaviours to make change. This is where it’s important to know your category. “It’s a case of backing it up with fact. What is the case for changing? That can overcome that initial resistance.”
2. Stakeholder collaboration is key
Procurement is not a job you can do at your desk, said Golds. You need to be fully involved in the process. “How can you say to yourself you know what you’re buying unless you’ve been onto the ground and seen what works, what doesn’t work and exactly what happens,” he said. Seeing firsthand how processes work can help you understand exactly what you need from a contract.
“It’s a case of understanding your customer’s needs, taking that into account but creating a balance between their needs and the needs of the overall business,” he said.
3. Bring a different perspective
In big manufacturing firms, departments can be siloed and may not consider what happens up or downstream from them. “In procurement we have the ability to see how it affects the overall business. It’s a case of using your experience, knowledge and skills of your category to bring a strategic view of how it will benefit the entire business,” said Golds.
4. Develop your skills through training
To make the case for change you need to understand your category, know what alternatives are in the market and what emerging technologies might be coming, said Golds. You also need to keep developing your procurement knowledge and skills, “to give you that strategic view across the business”.
5. Share your success
“In procurement it’s all about raising your profile,” said Golds. That is how you move from a directional standpoint to a strategic partner. Get yourself into your internal newsletter, and put yourself up for internal and external awards. “Really get your name out there and shout about the benefits that procurement can provide.”
In conclusion, skills acquisition should be uppermost in the ambitions of young buyers. This will help them to build an enduring career.
Gob – Agundu Uche FCIPS, Chartered
(with contributions from Francis Churchill)