Making Space for Procurement Quick Wins – Tejari Real World Sourcing

After the coolest late August for years in south-east England, it was a shock to the system to arrive last week in Dubai to temperatures of 40C / 104F. It was time for another Real World Sourcing trip, with workshops in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, sponsored and organised by Tejari (the BravoSolution jv in the region) and supported by CIPS.

Thanks to everyone who turned up and contributed to the lively sessions. We covered "Quick Wins for the New Procurement Leader " in Dubai and "Taking on a New Category" in Abu Dhabi. Both sessions were well attended, Dubai in particular, and the first was a debut for that topic; we will be running that session in London on November 25th and you can still book places here.

In Dubai, we talked about the need for a new procurement leader to make their mark quickly, yet it is also important to ensure any quick wins do not run counter to the longer term strategy. So, for example, it might be tempting to go for a "beat up the suppliers" approach to shows some quick price reductions; but if the longer term strategy is about building better relationships with key suppliers, then you haven't exactly set things off on the right foot.

I had an interesting discussion at the end of the event with a lady who has recently taken up a new management role, with a procurement team reporting to her. She is facing a problem that is not unusual, and did come up during the session too. She wants to introduce some new initiatives, get the team doing things differently (and better), yet at the same time, the team is under great pressure from a heavy workload around letting and re-letting contracts.

So the question is - how do you make space for the quick wins and indeed the new-longer term ideas most new leaders will want to introduce, when you have to ensure also that the "day job" or "business as usual" keeps ticking over successfully?

There are no magic solutions, of course. You might look to rationalise your current workload, perhaps aggregate some contracts together so there are fewer separate exercises, as another delegate suggested. You might bring in some external help to get over any workload peaks and free up some internal time for the new projects - that was one of the approaches the manager in question was taking. Looking analytically at just what the team are doing to identify discrepancies in workload or possible efficiency improvements is another approach.

But it is not easy, and it made me think about the gap between procurement theory and practice. Much procurement thinking effort - by academics, commentators, consultants - goes into complex ideas and processes. But at operating level, CPOs and other executives probably spend most of their time worrying about issues such as resources, meeting deadlines, and just keeping the show on the road. So perhaps we need to see the best thinkers in the profession putting more effort into practical ideas and support around operational delivery, and less into the theoretical?

Voices (2)

  1. Anirban Sarkar:

    Peter, first off a well written note on the conference you attended. Second, my suggestion in addition to the ones you had discussed with the procurement manager (lady procurement leader), would be to have a relook at the KRA / KPI of the staff. Identify the key resources in her team, reallocate some of the work responsibilities, so that some time is freed up for the identified resources and then give them short term cost reduction processes to execute in a time bound manner. Personally, I believe, that contract aggregation and outsourcing are mid term strategies and best not to hurry them up, but best taken through a judicious and engaged process.

  2. Roger Holloway:

    Totally agree with that last paragraph Peter, there’s a real lack of material dealing with the practicalities of running a procurement function (particularly for small/medium sized teams). Theory is all good and well, but it usually doesn’t help with the sort of real world issues described above.

    One of the most useful practical articles I’ve seen was the Spend Matters multi-part series on tender evaluation – surely there’s a need for more of this type of stuff? CIPS certainly don’t seem to offer too much in the way of dealing with the challenges of the day job.

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