Procurement Personas — the Early Strategist

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This is the second in a four-part series, from Daniel Ball, director at leading UK-based eProcurement provider Wax Digital,

This series of posts outlines the different personas that procurement professionals fall into, based on how they embrace innovation. In our research we found that there were four procurement personas that each embrace innovation differently, and established how many professionals fall into each category; they were as follows:

16% were Pragmatic Professionals

30% were Early Strategists

36% were Enlightened Activists

18% were High-Level Visionaries

In my last post I looked at the Pragmatic Professional, a procurement type for whom innovation largely means fixing what’s broken rather than making revolutionary changes. But this time I’d like to introduce you to a group that takes a more aspirational approach to innovation: the Early Strategist. If you’re at the beginning of your innovation journey, and on the way towards tearing up the procurement rule book, then perhaps you’re an Early Strategist.

What is an Early Strategist?

We surveyed 100 senior managers in charge of procurement and found that 30% fit our Early Strategist innovation persona. That means that they have made their way over some initial hurdles required to become innovative, but have some way to go before fully embracing it. It’s a gradual and steady journey, but they’ve got the strategy, plan and ambition to become true innovators.

The culture of the organisation they work for could be the reason why the Early Strategist is becoming innovative at a more gradual pace than some. Perhaps the organisation as a whole is less reactive to innovation? Or it’s possible that the procurement function suffers from a stigma of being primarily administrative. However that’s not stopping Early Strategists from grabbing innovation by the horns and envisaging big changes in the future.

What does innovation mean to the Early Strategist?

In their initial stages of achieving innovation, it’s key for Early Strategists to build their status as agents of change. But their approach is likely to be little by little, making incremental changes rather than a big bang approach. Although their long-term hope is to become a highly innovative business function, the ‘here and now’ is their current focus.

How do they achieve innovation?

With several obstacles in the way, Early Strategists have to take a careful approach to rolling out innovation, conscious of taking risks that could jeopardise their objectives. But they’re also the persona most committed to planning for change, and this formulaic approach gives them the security that their ambitions will one day be accomplished. As dedicated planners, they value analytical skills so they can assess how best to approach innovation, and they look to collaborate and communicate with other departments more so that the rest of the organisation views procurement as a trusted business adviser rather than an admin centre. For Early Strategists, winning over the trust of other departments is only the start of their innovation journey.

What innovative technology do they prioritise?

Early Strategists are still at the initial stages of innovation, so technology to them still means making procurement processes quicker and more efficient. They’re keen on digitising individual components by using specific tools such as eInvoicing to make processes more efficient. But Early Strategists are conscious that there’s more to procurement technology, and they are in fact the persona with the greatest technology investment plans for the next 12 months. They’re increasingly looking at full-scale procurement deployments like Source-to-Pay to transform the whole process and drive innovation. Essentially, technology must serve a dual purpose for them: both improving departmental processes and enabling business change.

In a nutshell …

So if you’re a procurement professional with a clear goal in mind that you’re setting out to achieve via a long-term plan, you’re likely to be an Early Strategist. It might be a long road ahead, and given that you might be feeling held back, you’re probably going at a steady pace. But the important thing is that you’re on track towards becoming a true innovation leader.

My next post in the series will look at a procurement persona that has reached this innovative stage - the Enlightened Activist.

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