Ellen Davis – making the move from HR to Procurement (part 2)

(Continuing our interview with Ellen Davis, who made the transition from being a career HR Manager to CPO at the UK Hydrographic Office).

Making that move is a pretty unusual step, so I wanted to know how she had found the transition.

“I do actually believe there are a lot of similarities between the functions. Take negotiation skills – they’re certainly important in most HR roles. Supplier relationship management comes fairly naturally to me I feel – like much of HR, it’s about getting the best out of people, and communicating effectively”.

The whole area of managing internal stakeholders effectively is another where she feels there is a clear read-across between the roles.

Ellen Davis of UKHO

“Persuading stakeholders of a particular course of action – one they might not initially feel comfortable with – is again something that both HR and procurement often need to do. I’d had some experience of the theory around persuasion techniques, but this was an area where the CIPS education was useful – we covered Yukl’s 11 influencing tactics, and as well as the academic side of things, the opportunity to test the approaches in real –life situations has also been highly educational!”.

(As an aside – it’s good to hear praise for CIPS education, particularly in a behavioural rather than a technical area, which was historically perhaps the stronger suit for CIPS).

Are there any areas where she feels her background is still a weakness or an issue?

“I’ve got very strong technical specialists in the team who understand the nuts and bolts of the MOD procurement process. I needed that, because obviously I haven’t ‘been there and done it’ myself. I do regret that at times – I’d like to be able to get into the detail of the processes sometimes so I could contribute more to change and improvement. But I’m still hopeful I’ll get there over time”.

Does she have any advice to others who may be thinking about coming into the procurement profession from other areas?

“Think about what you can bring to the function and the role. Work out what skills you have that will be relevant and can help to make procurement performance better. And play to those strengths”.

And what about the future? Does she see herself as a procurement professional for life now?

“I do think it plays to my strengths. I’m enjoying it, and have no plans to change function again any time soon!”

As we said yesterday, the CIPS President, David Smith, has been an advocate of people coming into procurement at different stages in their careers, and it isn’t that unusual. However, in my experience, it is often unplanned and accidental. What’s interesting about Ellen Davis is that she proactively decided to make the change, and got herself on the way, through taking up CIPS training before she moved into the function. It would be great to see more talented managers from HR and other areas doing the same!

The links or similarities she sees between HR and procurement are also very thought-provoking. Given the tension we sometimes see between the functions (often in turf-wars over who leads on the procurement of HR spend categories), perhaps we could promote what we have in common as a means of establishing better relationships between the two professions?

Anyway, many thanks to Davis, and we wish her and the Hydrographic Office continuing success.

Voices (2)

  1. eSourcingSensei:

    Hi Peter

    Two very interesting articles that I enjoyed very much.

    In 2001 (a lot of years back now 🙂 ) I transitioned from the role of Production Services Manager – across two sites, respoonsible for manufaturing planning, logistics, site level customer service, scheduling, warehousing, and the Packing Technology team – a very senior site role, into Procurement where I had to start at what may be described as the bottom rung as the “local” pucrchasing representative who when I started had no portfolio of my own.

    The site I was based at still recognised the role as a senior position and retained me on the site senior management team. Over the years since then I have held various portfolio Buying roles until I am where I am today.

    My background certainly enabled me to see the Procurement role from the position of a stake holder and I had been previously vocal in my criticism of the way they had worked so you could say the spotlight was on me!

    It was a risk stepping “back” in what could be perceived as the career ladder.

    I have to say whilst some days have been better than others and I have managed to get a little frustrated I can honestly say it was the best decision I ever made and that as I look back I can see how the various roles I have had have all gelled together and all help to support what I do today with eSourcing.

    Mine was a very concious decision to move out of what was certainly my “comfort zone” into a new arena but I wouldn’t have had it any other way

    Sensei

    1. eSourcingSensei:

      Sorry for the bad spelling I’ve only just spotted that – I’m getting too old!!

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