Reza Hagel – a procurement visionary at the CPO event

Continuing our series (after a short delay) on the key presentations from the recent CPO Event, the next example was one of those unexpected moments when something or someone far exceeds your expectations. The write-up of this session ("Value Creation & Vendor Innovation")  in the conference material was somewhat confusing and jargon-laden, so when Reza Hagel actually started talking, it was a pleasant surprise to hear one of the best and clearest expositions of how procurement can deliver value that I have ever heard.

Hagel has an interesting background, having worked mainly in pretty short-term interim roles in the Telecoms industry (Sony Ericcson, Vodafone, Orange, Huawei, Cisco),  but his experience goes well beyond purely procurement positions, including business development and more general management roles.

That is perhaps why he has such a broad yet clear view of the role of procurement. He talked about innovation and capturing supplier innovation; but he is also pragmatic. He sees risk (in its widest sense, not ‘just’ supplier risk) as a key door-opener for procurement – you can ‘create dependency’ in the organisation by highlighting and focusing on risk.

‘Most procurement people don’t understand what they are buying’ was one of his first remarks, which certainly got people’s attention. He sees the need for entrepreneurial leadership in procurement. The key to the function’s success is opportunity assessment – looking to see where suppliers can bring true benefit. ‘Value orientated category management’, not cost reduction was another central message.  That isn’t to say he disregards the basics. So he talked about the need for procurement to demonstrate efficiency and service as well as innovation. Indeed, it was the balance of his thinking that was so impressive.

Even some of his throw away remarks were worth repeating. He ‘doesn’t believe in people’ was one! That’s not as stark or as counter-intuitive as it sounds. What he meant, I think, was that often CPOs complaining about the lack of good people are covering up for something that is deeper and more fundamental.   Of course people are important,  but you can achieve a lot with good process and systems, was what I think he was pointing out.

Back to innovation – he talked in detail about driving innovation from vendors, so important in the telecoms industry of course, through joint optimization programmes, and other collaborative  initiatives. Again, one of the best descriptions of real, tangible activities in this much-talked about area that I’ve heard for quite a while.

But I think we’ll leave the detail on that for another day. It was a very content-rich presentation, so hard to capture in a few hundred words, and I very much hope that we’ll get Hagel to do some writing for us here. You can also see some more of his thinking on Slideshare (e.g. here) – some good material, although I’d say he is better still in person.

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