Our Procurement Wishes for 2015 – part 2

In part 1 we gave our first two “wishes” for 2015. We wished that procurement could make a significant move away from our obsession around savings and unit cost reduction, and start really looking at value as our primary driver. And we wished that procurement could have more good news stories and fewer about stupid supplier-bashing tactics and bad things happening in distant supply chains. Today, we have two more wishes.

3. We wish that procurement would adopt the principle of greater “openness” in a range of areas, including in our attitudes towards internal stakeholders and suppliers

I don’t mean “openness” in the sense that government tends to use that word now – for example, the issue around whether Freedom of Information questions to contractors should be allowed, although I’m in favour of that. I’m also in favour of Cabinet Office occasionally actually answering an FOI question from us too... but that’s another issue.

No, I mean more generally “open.” We’ve been a rather closed profession for a long time now.

  • We focus heavily on compliance and control – often seeing our role as stopping our colleagues and stakeholders from spending money
  • We look to reduce the supply base (supplier reduction programmes) and close down the number of firms with which we do business
  • We focus professional training very much on our own staff, looking to become the commercial “experts” in our organisations
  • We (usually) use category management processes to determine exactly what we want to buy, and narrow down the options that the market can offer

I believe that these fundamental beliefs of procurement are going to be challenged in 2015, from a number of quarters.  But my wish for now is that procurement leaders work to get ahead of the game. Much more on those issues from us through 2015!

4. We wish that procurement technology buyers and sellers work on the basis of real needs, capabilities, implementation times ...

2015 should be a great year for procurement technology vendors and buyers. Products are ever-improving, new market entrants keep the established players on their toes, and generally the position should be a happy one. And the best technology, used well, really can make a huge difference to the performance of procurement functions. In fact, it is probably the single biggest differentiator in terms of procurement leaders versus laggards.

Yet there is still far too much money spent badly on procurement technology. Too many solution providers looking to maximise revenues rather than asking what would really add value to their customers. So let’s have more honesty from both sides – from procurement executives involved in decision making, around what is really needed, and how much internal buy-in there is to the plans. (Lack of that buy-in is a major driver of “shelfware.”)

And from providers, innovation and new thinking, but grounded in practical, deliverable solutions; and honesty in terms of what the products can really do, how long it will take to get up and running (and at what cost), and the truth around how easy it is to use.

So there we go – four wishes for 2015. Let’s see if any of them come true.

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