Procurement Personas: the Pragmatic Professional

We welcome this post, the first in a four-part series, from Daniel Ball, director at Wax Digital, a leading UK-based eProcurement provider.

‘Innovation’ - it may be an oft-overused word, however, our recent research found that in procurement it’s got some real substance. From the 100 senior managers in charge of procurement we questioned, four out of five believe that their role is significantly important to future business innovation. Procurement isn’t just talking the innovation talk; over three quarters either currently or plan to use innovative technologies within the next 12 months.

Procurement’s different innovation approaches?

Of course, there’s no single approach to innovation, and it means different things to different professionals - often determined by the size and type of organisation they work for. We found that there were four procurement personas that each embrace innovation differently, and established how many professionals fall into each category; they were as follows:

16% were Pragmatic Professionals

30% were Early Strategists

36% were Enlightened Activists

18% were High-Level Visionaries

In this the first of four posts, we’re looking at the Pragmatic Professional’s approach to innovation. All our personas have a healthy respect for innovation and as you’ll see in subsequent posts, for some procurement personas it’s increasingly at the core of their practice. However, as the name suggests, the Pragmatic Professional has a somewhat more down-to-earth view.

What is a Pragmatic Professional?

Pragmatic Professionals are focused squarely on savings to the bottom line following clear business mandates. They take a more controlled and measured approach to innovation, applying it to improve what they know rather than exploring what is possible. Many procurement professionals that take this approach work in a small or medium-size organisation and therefore may not have the kind of complexity of spend or purchasing that requires large-scale change. Therefore, a more applied and tactical approach to innovation, which fits in with its more straightforward buying role, is suited to them.

How do Pragmatic Professionals perceive innovation?

To the Pragmatic Professional, innovation is something to help improve day-to-day practice. They want procurement to be an agile function that can react quickly to external forces, and so they’re focused on how procurement can become a more effective and responsive internal function. Their ultimate purpose is to manage spend effectively and so they’re in favour of innovation that can achieve this on a practical level.

How do they achieve innovation?

While other procurement professionals might look at collaboration as the gateway to revolutionising practice, Pragmatic Professionals tend to be more focused on building tangible and solid organisational capabilities in their team in order to drive change. They know that for the procurement department to show its true value, it must be structured and formulaic in its approach. Rather than becoming a more consultative function, Pragmatic Professionals want to retain their focus on administrative skills and be a department that meets its targets more efficiently.

What innovative technology does it prioritise?

It’s this administrative focus that shapes the type of technology that Pragmatic Professionals value. They tend not to be focused on rolling out full-scale deployments, such as Source-to-Pay or Source -to-Contract software which can transform the business’ whole buying processes. Instead, they look at specific tools like eInvoicing to improve individual process components. Put simply: if a process or piece of technology can get the day’s work done quicker or more efficiently, and can make a tangible difference, pragmatic professionals are likely to be in favour of it.

In a nutshell …

For Pragmatic Professionals innovation doesn’t mean ‘setting the world on fire’. After all, if business is prospering there might not be the need to change elements of procurement that have always served you well, and essentially reinvent the business wheel.

What are the other personas that procurement professionals take? While Pragmatic Professionals take a more practical view towards innovation, many procurement professionals grab it by the horns and see a long journey ahead of them to achieve true innovative status.  Our next article will explore those that fit this persona: the Early Strategist.

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