5 key skills for procurement leaders

Blog | November 13, 2014

Procurement leaders and procurement superheroes

Being a procurement leader is all about being able to deal with challenging demands.

Simultaneously handling the need to manage internal and external dynamics, meet strategic business goals and deliver cold, hard numbers – in a rapidly changing environment – demands some serious creativity and problem solving skills.

Exceptional procurement leaders are hard to come by. These five traits distinguish the great from the merely good.

1. Understand the importance of relationships

Maintaining a cordial supplier relationship is key. The vulnerability of supply chains can result in increasing dependence on the knowledge and services of supply partners. Keeping suppliers aware of their business goals, procurement leaders nourish mutually beneficial relationships to reduce risk. Of course, good suppliers profit from this knowledge of how buyers use their products and use it to invest in the relationship too.

Whether dealing with suppliers, senior management or other departments, empathy is a key trait in procurement leaders. They need to evaluate their own activities through the eyes of others –suppliers, CFO, operations and more – and adjust them as necessary.

2. Influence others

In almost all organisations changes in technology have given rise to extensive cross-departmental working. It’s critical to have a united vision that works towards the organisations strategy and goals. Without engagement, enthusiasm and commitment from each department no major procurement initiative can flourish. This often means that procurement leaders need to change minds and get buy-in and behavioural changes. Sensitively adapting their tactics to each audiences or stakeholder, they explain the benefits with an infectious enthusiasm and slowly but surely, draw them in to reach the same conclusion.

3. Motivate employees to play by the rules

Rather than aggressively supervising employee activity to ensure compliance with procurement regulations, the procurement leader adopts a subtler approach. They know that enforcement without education is doomed to fail. Being clear and persuasive about the importance of procurement policies and the need for transparency in supplier selection encourages rather than dominates and can work much more effectively to curb maverick spending.

4. Prioritise corporate responsibility alongside business goals

A procurement leader worth his or her salt ensures the prioritisation of ethical, social, environmental, health, safety and labour standards throughout the entire process – including the activities of their suppliers. These standards should be clear, comprehensive and robust, but without compromising the support offered to their suppliers to improve performance.
Any violation of these standards should be exposed and addressed, ensuring ethical and responsible conduct at all times.

5. Adopt innovative software solutions

With new technology quickly evolving to incorporate all aspects of the procure-to-pay process, there really aren’t any excuses for not embracing the opportunities they offer. First-generation eProcurement systems are being superseded by more intuitive, integrated and data-rich solutions. These next-generation procurement solutions offer a dramatically improved service and create opportunities for enhanced efficiency, collaboration and ROI. A good procurement leader will not fail to recognise the benefits.

For more information about supporting procurement processes in your organisation with next-generation technology, contact us today.