BravoSolution launch our Paper – and “fings ain’t wot they used to be”?

BravoSolution held a dinner recently as part of the launch of our White Paper – “Market-Informed Sourcing – a game changer for Procurement.”  Download it here...

I covered some of the paper’s content here and here  – but at the dinner, I was pleased to see that none of the eminent procurement professionals rubbished my view that the technology now available, and the different approach it enables you to take to the market, challenges traditional category management thinking.   In fact, I picked up a real willingness to look for, and embrace, new ideas.

But one ex CIPS President said something that struck me as very thought provoking, and I don't think it was just the excellent wine talking...  Here is my (approximate) memory of the comment.

“We’ve lost the excitement. When we came into the profession 15, 20 years ago, it was all new and exciting.  We were pushing into undiscovered territory – category management, lean supply chains, Professors Cox and Lamming blazing the trail! Now although the profession is much more established, I don’t see that excitement. And the young people coming into the profession don't seem to have any great passion for it – it’s just another job”.

Is that right, I wonder?  Or was this person just suffering from the “fings ain’t what they used to be” syndrome that hits us all when we get over a certain age - although, he said hastily, the person in question is not exactly ancient!

Frankly, if my daughter’s new graduate friends are anything to go by, they’d be delighted with any job, although a worrying number of them seem to be aiming at “events management” as the career of choice. But maybe that means they’re just not getting passionate about anything in particular – because they know they’re likely to be disappointed.

So, is procurement still exciting? If you were speaking to a bright graduate, which aspects of our jobs could you describe (with a straight face) as exciting, challenging, stimulating? Personally, I think it is still a great career choice, but maybe we need to do some positioning – or re-positioning – to refresh the message in some way?

Voices (4)

  1. Andrew:

    I have a contrary view; that things may actually be changing for the better. Whilst the focus in the early 90’s was on the areas mentioned (manufacturing, lean supply chains etc), the shift to a service based economy – at least in the UK – has created a number of new opportunities for our profession. Both the direct and the indirect supply chains are now considered a critical aspect of the way companies operate and in many cases can make the difference between success and failure. Procurement is getting involved in areas where we have traditionally been held at bay – more about this in a guest article that I have promised to write soon – and in many businesses we are now positioned as leading some critical make vs buy debates being held in the C-suite. Even the fact that we are now “allowed” in the C-suite is a big step forward and I know that significant numbers of graduates are actively considering a ‘career’ in Procurement/Supply Chain which I don’t think was the case 20 years ago. So, in summary, I think these are incredibly exciting times!

  2. Watcher of the Skies:

    What an interesting discussion. Yes, passion and interest seems on the wane for many. For some it’s undoubtedly the years taking their toll but, despite the conveyor belt of new graduates, few seem to be challenging what has gone before.

    I agree with Rob to a degree; many previously pioneering practices have become mainstream. The depth of their application, however, is in question. When you go back to the early-mid 1990s, the work of Lamming, Cox, Womack and Jones, and others were really pushing the boundaries. Integrated supply chains, just-in-time, lean manufacturing and supply, power and dependency profiling, and other similar ideas all challenged the relatively dull contract management approach to purchasing that had been prevailing practice.

    These innovative concepts fell on the fertile ground of the manufacturing sector, where procurement really did (and still does) matter. When your procurement spend is c.70% of your sales revenues, it’s not about emotional intelligence, influencing skills, stakeholder and supplier relationship management; it’s about GETTING THE JOB DONE. People were passionate about procurement because these businesses HAD TO BE passionate about procurement; their survival depended on it.

    We all know the U.K. manufacturing sector has taken a battering over the last twenty years and now our profession’s brightest and best typically ply their trade in services. The sad fact of this, is that the service businesses (unless they more or less outsource everything) will never see procurement as genuinely business critical. Sure, business leaders appreciate the contribution procurement can bring, but it isn’t something that keeps them up at night. A supplier failing to deliver to one of the banks is rarely going to ‘stop the production line’ (those with an automotive pedigree will know how catastrophic an event that could be).

    Most of today’s ‘great and the good’ served their apprenctieship in manufacturing; automotive, aerospace, consumer durables, engineering. They got to the top, not least because they both know stuff and had the experience of experimenting with those pioneering tools for real. But where will tomorrow’s grey-haired sages come from?

    I fear for the profession. I worry that the deepest experiences of truly best practice procurement are happening somewhere else, in countries where manufacturing still matters.

    Now I wouldn’t want to denigrate anyone operating in Services; there is real talent out there and people are more rounded with their EQ and IQ making a difference to their careers and the quality of the their work. But where are the new ideas? And where are the innovative and opinionated professors challenging the profession to up its game?

    I’m afraid contract management, e-solutions, buying from China, etc, do not make for a great profession, and the consequence will be that many who enter procurement will reach their career peaks in another profession.

  3. Rob:

    Ah! And, as I also attended the dinner, I recall the individual who made this statement.

    We also had a chat about this. And I think we agreed that 20 years ago, there were some quite significant developments within the profession which have since become the ‘norm’ – and any new entrants to the profession wouldn’t have experienced the journey. Additionally, the exploitation of automation, as it stands today, is very different to what it was then. It is unfortunate to see some (younger) procurement folk resort to using google to find market/supplier information (and then not use anything else…). Though I did enounter one procurement department which had been functioning for some 40 years (and was populated by CIPS ‘professionals’) where, at the top of the list for of their ‘market engagement process’ was the phrase ‘You can find suppliers in Yellow Pages…’.

    Focusing on Bitter’s comment, it is hard to see how or why, currently, young professionals should be ‘passionate about procurement’, but then we just have to be thankful that we’re not working in HR….

  4. bitter and twisted:

    Any 21 year old claiming a “passion” for procurement is either a bullshitter or a dullard.

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