A Thriving Procurement Function for the Next Five Years — Part 2: Getting People on Your Side

What will a thriving procurement function look like over the next five years or so? In this installment of the series, I join with Gregg Brandyberry, my partner at Wildfire Commerce, to explore a critical skill we believe is necessary to procurement professionals: the ability to get your business partners on your side.

Our original goal was to determine what procurement professionals should do in order to persuade decision makers to approve and fund their initiatives. However, when we engaged 15 procurement professionals and a CFO in a dialogue on this topic, we were intrigued by a broader theme that emerged: the importance of getting the people you're trying to influence onto your side.

It may seem obvious that such influencing skills are important, but it's not obvious what one should do. Here are six of the key ideas that came out of the session:

  1. Power. You need to understand power, and be skilled at internal marketing. People with power in the company get done what they want done. If they don't see value in your project … fuhgeddaboudit! Understand how things look from their perspective; build relationships; make sure you can clearly communicate the value to them, or "it ain't going nowhere" -- even if it's the best idea in the world.
  2. Credibility. Part of what gets your project approved is credibility. What is it? It's "Can she get it done?" "Does he have a proven track record?" How do you gain it? By delivering consistently on your commitments over a period of time.
  3. Resistance. How do you reduce resistance and create buy-in to your change effort? First, understand that people feel threatened by change; they worry about what's going to happen to them. So, you have to create buy-in. How do you do that? Partly through engaging those who will be affected. Get groups to give you their business requirements. Ask what's most important to them. Let them shape the plan. Communicate what it's all about. Get those with power on your side (re-read #1 above).
  4. Sell yourself. Go out and find the opportunities in your area. Find useful data. Wedge yourself into projects. Help people find out how indispensible you are. Market yourself so other departments are aware of what you can do. Make sure the CFO or other senior finance officials know your importance. Oh, and five "no"s mean you're getting closer to a "yes."
  5. Budget process. Understand how money and the budget process work in your company. Utilize that knowledge to help get support for your project. Before you embark on a sourcing project, validate with the business whether it has money or not; don't find out later that there's no money to change a process. Work ahead of time with Finance to get things in the budget. Eliminate things that might bring your project to a halt.
  6. Business case. Learn and use the standard business case process used throughout the company. If you know what senior management is looking for, whether it's ROI, NPV, or EBIT, you can prepare better up front. Make sure you have a solid justification for the project. What's its financial payback? Non-financial benefits? How does it affect quality and efficiency? Make sure you have a robust financial analysis. Analyze data on today's processes; compare them to best-in-class performance; quantify financially the impact of moving toward best in class; put it all together into a compelling business case. Lay out your vision and a roadmap for getting there.

Go ahead and test these six ideas to see whether you're applying these to a key initiative you are working on. Let us know how you're doing and what else you might be doing to get your business partners on your side.

Jason Magidson

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