The Artful Design of Procurement (Part 1) [PRO]

In a previous post, I was writing up some notes from the Ivalua NOW 2019 conference, which it themed “The Art of Procurement.” That theme is fun, and although it tempts me to bring in Zen analogies in archery, martial arts or even motorcycle maintenance, I think the better theme is not so much just about art (even though there is a definite craft/“art” to doing procurement transformation — and using digital as part of that transformation), but also about design.

In this multi-part Spend Matters PRO series, I’ll cover the following topics:

* Art vs. design within a procurement context
* Design-centered procurement and platform design rather than just product design
* Platform enablement of the “participative art” of procurement
* A counter-intuitive palette: low code software platforms
* The procurement practitioner as artist

I won’t be laying out a paint-by-numbers prescription for procurement excellence, but art does hold some lessons: not so much as art as expressing an aesthetic, but more as a practice and expression of mastery.

Some have applied Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” to business, and of course to trading partner negotiations, but Picasso is perhaps a better example. He was hugely prolific and cut his teeth mastering all the traditional artforms before creating his unique cubist style. Procurement practitioners similarly must have a baseline mastery of basic commercial knowledge (legal, finance, negotiations, etc.), change management, etc., but also be adept at picking up new techniques and tools and applying them to the task at hand. For example, many progressive procurement practitioners haven’t just learned Lean/6Sigma, but also Design Thinking and Agile software development principles that can be applied to collaboration beyond just software development — including procurement.

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