Managing stakeholders – Rob Lees shares his procurement experience

Back when I was running corporate procurement departments, a key part of the role was to help budget holders understand a little about our job and how we could help, driving early engagement. I used to take the department on the road, rocking up to department meetings and giving them a tune or two… no, that must have been another career.My speciality was getting into the big spenders’ team meetings early on, and I was often the first CPO to do so.

I gave them my family’s view of my job, the only one to date they have truly understood: in their words ‘Daddy is the Head of Shopping’; then I consistently used one slide called ‘Why are Procurement always busy?’ which included some quite staggering spend and vendor numbers divided by the relatively small number of people I had to manage them (I wasn’t always after more staff, quite the reverse often, but every little helps).

It usually worked out that my guys were spending like Imelda Marcos while juggling about a hundred vendors a day. No wonder they all lunched at their desks. You know your numbers and you will be able to tell them where they spend their money and who with. Possibly for the first time – wow!

So far, so Procurement 1.0, or Procurement pre-school in fact.

What we really needed was to get Procurement on the front foot and demonstrating value through savings, efficiency, managing risk and delivering speed to market, with as little visible bureaucracy as possible. Moving from buying any old stuff to buying the right stuff in the right way and being confident enough to challenge our budget holders to let us share some of the decisions. So what do you do, after the first session with your stakeholders and before the next one, to really get your feet under the table?

Let’s assume you’ve had the first meeting with your internal customers, and wowed them with your personality and grasp of the numbers, now it’s time to go back and show them some value….

So how do you do that? You have to show just enough process and to keep your customers interested, but not so much you enough to bore them. You have to offer them rapid speed of delivery without getting them over-excited. You really need to know their KPIs (99.99% uptime, .400 at-bat, 50% NPS or whatever) and show how your work directly supports them..

When I moved from the Dark Side into a procurement leadership role it also dawned on me (slowly) that procurement people rarely had time to share their skills and were not always time-conscious (perhaps being trained to hold out forever for that extra 1% saving)?

So we reconfigured our team meetings to make it easier to share knowledge and unavoidably easy to report progress against plan, giving us an excellent fund of success stories and KPIs for that Difficult Second Album - sorry, that second visit to the budget holders’ department meeting. After all, you can only tell the Head of Shopping story so many times… You need to be on the customer’s agenda, demonstrate value and hide bureaucracy, and above all show results and operate with their language and at their pace.

Now Guy Allen and I have encapsulated these ideas around stakeholder management into our new ALPS training courses. This is underpinned by a frighteningly realistic business game, which gives you the chance to actually experience the joy and frustrations of procurement life. And if you’d like to find out more, see our website at www.actlps.com.

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