But Do We Really Need Procurement Talent?

Procurement Talent – we all want the best people, don’t we? That is the people with the best inherent intelligence and personal characteristics. The people who will embrace training and development to become true stars of the profession. The people who ... well, you get my meaning.

But that is not easy to achieve that level of quality in the function. And if recruitment firm Edbury Daley is correct in terms of a growing skills shortage in procurement, it is only going to get harder. Now if you do want to embrace this, there are two basic approaches. You can grow your own talent – and within our ‘hot topic’ this month we probably haven’t featured enough on training and development– we seem to have focused a bit more on the recruitment side of things. Maybe we will come back to that as a future hot topic. But you can build skills and capability in your team over time.

Or you can buy in talent. Some organisations have done this – I remember when I was CPO at NatWest, Barclays deciding they wanted to take procurement more seriously, and simply offered 30% higher salaries than any of the other big financial services firms were paying in order to attract in a good team to drive performance. But that’s expensive, and does not necessarily get you people with a sense of loyalty or commitment either!

But here is another thought. Why do we need “talent”? Only because much of what we do in procurement is actually pretty difficult, and people who can do that work with “talent” will get better results. However, what about if we make it possible for people with less talent to get good or even very good results? Wouldn’t that be just as good and maybe a more achievable goal if we are going to get into a talent shortage?

It is sacrilege really as a procurement processional to suggest this, but it is worth considering. We mentioned this first here, when we commented (very positively) on a session from Reza Hagel at the CPO Event last year. He gave a brilliant speech, and one of his points was just that. If we put in place really strong and effective processes and systems, he said, perhaps we can get the right results with people who frankly are average rather the brilliant.

When you think about it, this has happened in many other business areas, although we might question whether it has been for the best (the de-skilling of the branch bank manager role, for example). But if we look at all the business areas where automation, standardisation, expert systems, and now even artificial intelligence have played a significant role, then maybe we are next in line for that.

I don’t think we are going to lose totally the need for skills in procurement. I don't see the importance of procurement talent disappearing. But maybe there is an alternative way of looking at things too.

Voices (3)

  1. RJ:

    The need for “talent” as in all professions is dependent upon the overall requirement that you’re trying to satisfy. By and large, the spot buying of commodity products that operate in a competitive market can and has been automated but, while to an extent you can build analytical models to support your decision-making, the determination of an appropriate hedging strategy for these same products requires an assessment of your risk appetite, judgement of what could or is likely to happen in the market and the specific approach to the market requires critical skills, if only to input the criteria into the model. On a different tack, in the professional services arena it’s reasonably straightforward to review rate cards and even to run a reverse auction to get aggressive pricing, but if you don’t understand the value of the deliverables being provided by a consultant, lawyer or auditor, how can you possibly determine if theyre the right service provider.

    I know it’s stating the obvious but the challenge, therefore, for most procurement organisations now is to tailor the approach to buying different products and services according to risk, value and the market in which you and your suppliers are operating. And anyone who wants to go in depth on that one should see the excellent debate raised the other day on this site on the use of Kraljic by Andrew Cox, Sigi Osagie, Pierre Mitchell and others.

  2. bitter and twisted:

    ‘Talent’meansr “We want to do stuff better, but we dont know how, so, er…’Talent!’ Lets hire more ‘Talent’ ”

    Its like saying ‘Our new business strategy is make better products for less money!’

  3. Jonathan Betts:

    The point about needing less talent with good systems in place is interesting. But, if you had two procurement organisations with identical systems then the one with more talented individuals will perform better. In addition, more talented people will devise more productive systems.

    And, at the risk of sounding even more of a pedant; if talent is inherent aptitude or skill is it possible to grow your own?

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