By Bill Huber, Director, CPO Services, TPI and Shahid Bhatty, Senior Advisor

In our previous post, we commented on the recent IACCM (International Association for Contract and Commercial Management) survey of procurement professionals, across a broad spectrum of industry verticals, on the most pressing issues facing them in the current recessionary environment.  Similar to other business functions, effective procurement leaders will prepare and secure executive support for a business plan annually, and update it as required through the year.

However, in order to create and implement a procurement business plan (planned strategic sourcing activities), organizations need resources and tools to gain visibility to spend, change management skills to implement procurement policies and procedures, and their key resources focused on the core activity of generating savings.  Many organizations have attempted to take on these challenges and have had varying degrees of success, as attested by the results of the IACCM survey. As a consequence, some procurement organizations have lost credibility.  In fact, in the IACCM survey, when asked how procurement is viewed by internal stakeholders, only 20 percent viewed procurement as a trusted advisor!

Similar sentiments on view of procurement by executive

This is not surprising, since it is uncommon to see organizations or individuals perceived to be in a compliance role treated as trusted advisors.  We believe that in procurement, governance needs to be clearly differentiated from compliance. Enterprise governance must rely on an effective compliance approach to provide real time business intelligence to executive decision makers and reinforce the objectives of procurement policies, but the two activities need not be performed by the same set of individuals.  In fact, it is usually more effective to separate the two, since governance requires leadership and influencing skills and compliance requires transactional and auditing skills.

One way to raise the effectiveness of procurement governance is to engage outside service providers to perform many of the activities that will improve compliance.  Based on an organization’s maturity profile, these service providers can be engaged selectively to:

  • Perform transactional activities and a few non-core functions/categories so that retained resources can concentrate on the core activities of managing critical relationships and driving savings strategies
  • Conduct strategic sourcing activities for certain commodities where they bring the category expertise and necessary tools to achieve rapid time to savings; the scope can range from a few categories to almost all non-unique indirect spend categories
  • Provide or support tools and technology that procurement can leverage to offer greater spend visibility
  • Provide change management expertise to help procurement implement the new programs and create greater visibility across the stakeholder/user community
  • Support governance structures with participation from key executives within the company that outline defined/structured programs to generate savings create operational efficiencies and manage the associated change, thus helping raise the profile of procurement within the company

This approach optimizes the strengths and economic advantages of internal and external resources. In today’s recessionary environment where procurement is under tremendous pressure to achieve greater savings, working with outside service providers may be the quickest and most cost effective way to meet objectives.