Procurement is nothing new
There’s a lot of firsts in this blog. The main one being this is my first blog! I seem to remember keeping some sort of diary in my teenage years, but nothing since. A good friend of mine journals on a daily basis and says it helps him to process his thoughts, and I will try and emulate that. Although there are some thoughts I won’t be sharing and I’m guessing you lovely people won’t want to read them!
The other first for me and this is probably more central, is I have recently completed my first month for Difrent. I started at Difrent, although I’ve had involvement with them in the past, on the 6th August straight on-site with our client running a requirements workshop. I’m a person who relishes getting straight into things and getting involved, and that stems from being highly impatient and a bit of a control freak. The next few days involved getting my tech, swag and getting to know my London colleagues; who are awesome by the way! It was then straight into work, no hanging around, straight in helping Difrent and our clients to deliver tech for good!
I suppose I should say what I do at Difrent — I am the Procurement and Commercial Lead. A slightly grandiose title for a boy from Essex! But what does this title mean? The more highbrow would like the official definition which is
“Procurement is the business management function that ensures identification, sourcing, access and management of the external resources that an organisation needs or may need to fulfil its strategic objectives”
Sounds all serious and grown-up (which I am rarely not!) doesn’t it? Sounds like it is something which is integral to every organisation. To explain, and some of my Procurement friends and colleagues will hate me saying this as it demeans the profession, it is shopping. It is the same process you go through when you buy a tin of beans, a computer, a car, a house. There is thought, intent, a look at the availability of products, analysis of pricing, the ability to form a contract, getting the product or service and then doing something with it. I’ve had the questions “so what do you do” a lot since I started here, which is fine because Procurement people get the question a lot, and I use the old shopping analogy. And, if I need to dig deeper, I share how we’re here to support and help you and to show justification for spending that money. I did say, slightly tongue in cheek, that Procurement is something which should be integral to every organisation because unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s a side thought. It’s something which happens every day in an organisation, everyone is impacted by it, and yet most organisations do not give it the credence it deserves. I am very fortunate that Difrent get the benefits of a Procurement and Commercial mind and it forms part of our senior leadership team which I feel very honoured and humbled to sit on.
Our client, which I have the most recent interaction with, get the value of Procurement and are willing to learn about how it can improve their organisation and systems. In my view, it should form a key part of a business just like finance or HR does. Most organisations don’t have Procurement sitting on their senior team, it doesn’t ever get a place on the board, and yet it has the opportunity to help shape and grow their organisations in a way most other departments can’t do on their own. Procurement sits under something else and is an afterthought. Do people not know the value of what we do? Is Procurement a new and modern part of the business? I’m pretty sure people deep down know the value of what Procurement can do but they’re not in close contact with it or have experienced bad Procurement. I also think Procurement is not a modern phenomenon. It has been around forever. You could say Jesus procured bread and fish to feed about five thousand men, women and children, but please don’t ask me to conduct any miracles!
Procurement is nothing new, but people don’t know about it, which is why I get questioned about what I do. No one asks an accountant or a marketing person what they do because people know it, it’s part of the business make-up. So, like a good church preacher (the astute will notice some Churchy references in this, and yes, I’m a Christian!), I suppose I should have three points to make.
1. A call to action to all my Procurement colleagues who are out there sitting at their desks doing spend analysis and feverishly writing Procurement and Category Plans. Get out there! Sit with your colleagues. Talk to them. Find out their joys. Their woes. What excites them. What they want and need to spend their budgets on. I know most Procurement people are introverts, and I’m one of them. I work with extroverts; trust me I work with some very extroverted extroverts, and I love them! It exhausts me to be extroverted, but my and the organisation’s success with Procurement stems on me stepping out of my comfort zone and speaking to people. Remember you’re helping them and who doesn’t want help?
2. Meet with your Procurement colleagues. Form a cohort, help each other, and share each other’s wins and woes. Most of you won’t be able to share what you do with your loved ones. Yeah, you can share your general work frustrations, but no one outside of Procurement wants to hear about Invitation to Tenders (ITTs), Selection Questionnaires (SQs) or the infamous, dreaded, everyone’s scared of, Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) tender……it’s just a process people! I’m fortunate enough to have a mentor. He’s fab! He listens to me and offers sound advice. It’s a good sounding board for work, career and life advice. We don’t meet too often, but I know I can meet him when I need to.
3. Keep it simple stupid (KISS)! Something I learnt in my dreaded sales and recruitment days, that no one likes complicated. I certainly don’t. I like short words, short sentences and things I can understand. Don’t talk to your stakeholders about 12-month Procurement processes, or how we have a simple, repeatable process which will make their lives easier. They don’t care. They just want to buy their stuff and they want to buy it as cheaply and as quickly as possible! If they’re good stakeholders who know their market, they should know who they can get that golden deal from. Now I’m not saying we direct award, especially in the public sector, but listen to your stakeholders and help them to get their service or works in the most pain-free way possible. Obviously the more time you spend with them, get to know their plans and their budgets, the easier it is to plan in those big pieces of work, but don’t be that blocker which stops Procurement having the voice it deserves.
Can I just say well done for reaching the end of my ramblings? There hasn’t really been any golden thread running through this blog, but just as, like my life, thoughts come into my brain and I spit them out onto the page. I’m gonna make every effort to write more of these as I have found this therapeutic, so please be kind and comment, read my next one, and please get in touch. I want to connect with people, and I want to raise the profile of Procurement through blogging, chatting, interacting and speaking to rooms of people. I may be an introvert, but I will always come willingly for coffee and cake!