Back to School – 8  procurement priorities for the new academic year (part 1)

We’re now thoroughly into September, the kids are back at school, and the University students will be joining them shortly if they’re not already hitting the freshers’ week parties and society fairs.

In a business context, when I had a corporate job September always felt like the real beginning of a new year rather than January. So with that I mind, here are eight actions that we suggest procurement professionals should consider in that spirit of renewal.  The first four are people-focused, the next four more process-related.

And remember – most organisations have a business year that finishes end of December or the end of March. So in that case, you’re either half or two thirds of the way through the year. There’s an incentive to get going on some of these, before you get drawn back into the madness of day-to-day delivery, meetings, panics and priorities!

1  Look hard at your staff

If you have anyone working for you (directly or indirectly), don’t leave it till the end of the calendar year or financial year to think about how you will assess them at appraisal time, or whether they have the requisite skills for this changing world.  So if someone isn’t performing as you would like, have a chat now. Find out why. Maybe they think everything is fine. Maybe something is holding them back. But don’t leave it to the year-end appraisal and then find that whatever you say on December 19th comes as a total shock to them.  And if there are needs, look at how you can help them over the rest of the year - traditional training, on the job support, e-learning, whatever, to help fill those gaps.

2  Look at your own CPD

And while you’re considering all this people-focused stuff, what about your own “continuous professional development”?  What have you done this year to make sure you are keeping up with your organisation and your profession’s changing picture?  Of course you read Spend Matters regularly to keep up with developments, and sign up for our free webinars and other events ...  But what else are YOU doing to help improve your performance in this job and perhaps position yourself better for the next big role?

3  Take a stakeholder out for a coffee or beer

My biggest regret looking back at my time as a CPO is that I didn’t manage or work with stakeholders as well as I should have. Sometimes I naively felt that, as long as I and my team did a decent job, our contribution would be recognised. But really, we have to build relationships as well in order to gain buy-in and support for what we want to do, and indeed to make sure we are meeting the needs of other business areas in terms of what procurement can bring to their success. So identify your two or three key stakeholders (not just the people you like and are close to already), and suggest a coffee, beer or whatever. Take that chance to just chat in an informal environment about what’s going on and how you can work together better.  It will pay off, I guarantee.

4  ... and talking of difficult stakeholders -- what about suppliers?

What do your key suppliers really think about you, the procurement function and your organisation? Have you asked them? Actually, there is no point you asking them because they will say that they love you and that you are their absolute preferred customer in the whole wide world. But what would they tell someone privately, under conditions of anonymity? That can be organised – get a survey done by an independent third party. It can be a chastening experience, I warn you, but I found it incredibly useful in my time as a CPO.

In part 2 – our remaining four priorities for procurement academic year 2014/15!

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