Should we "Align" or "Map" Procurement to the Business?

What do you think of the word alignment? Since I originally straddled the technology and business line in my early career as a consultant, I happen to believe that it's one of the most overused pieces of jargon in the business technology or consultant's dictionary. Even though we now talk about aligning procurement and supply chain to the business, IT has talked about it for decades. Perhaps a better -- and more descriptive phase -- might be "mapping". I prefer the term mapping for a number of reasons. First, "to map" a course implies a charted direction that must be agreed upon by both parties before embarking on a journey (rather than a more nebulous type of alignment). In addition, a map brings with a shared or collective understanding of accepted truths and goals. To wit, while the best way to get from point A to point B might be debated, the coordinates of both locations are known, creating a common mental model -- not just collaborative lip service.

Regardless of whether you're still partial to the phrase "alignment" after reading my little rant or if you're won over to the "mapping" concept, I'd suggest taking a quick look at a recent Purchasing article on the subject. The piece examines how Boston Scientific mapped its global sourcing efforts to match the requirements of the business. This effort changed the way in which the organization would be measured. It's goals are now based on "four dimensions" which include "cost reduction, risk management, quality and growth/innovation." I find it somewhat curious that while cost reduction is number one on the list, the other four areas would have historically been far less important to most global sourcing organizations before going through such a mapping exercise.

Jason Busch

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