Executive Q&A with KPMG’s Samir Khushalani: ‘Procurement Needs a Few ‘Wins’

Now that the Big Ten football season is underway, let’s turn our attention to a trailblazer from one of the Big Four.

Samir Khushalani is KPMG’s Americas practice leader for the procurement and operations advisory service line and is responsible for strategy setting, thought leadership, executive client management and engagement delivery aspects for this practice. He’s also a member of KPMG’s Global Procurement Leadership Team.

Not only that, Samir serves on the board for the Sourcing Interest Group (SIG) and keeps a foot in the arts world as a board member for the Society of Performing Arts in Houston.

We caught up with him in an email conversation to get his current view on the procurement function and sector.

Spend Matters: So what’s your procurement origin story? How’d you first get into it?

Samir Khushalani: More by accident than by intent. I got a degree in electrical engineering and joined consulting straight out of school. I happened to get staffed on a supply chain/procurement engagement by virtue of being at the “right place at the right time.” I really enjoyed the project and am still working in this space, 23 years later.

SM: Having been a procurement professional basically your entire career, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing procurement today?

SK: Talent. Procurement is transitioning from a tactical, back-office function to a strategic business partner. To make this transition, it needs to be able to attract, develop and retain the right kind of talent to meet the enhanced expectations of the function.

SM: Does KPMG face the same challenge? How do you see the role of procurement evolving inside your organization?

SK: Getting more involved with demand management.

SM: In what ways?

SK: Procurement needs to be staffed with professional category managers that have the right soft skills and deep knowledge of their categories and the supply markets to contribute meaningfully in conversations around demand management with their “internal customer.” In terms of specifications optimization, it is not uncommon to find an organization over-spec a requirement. Procurement can offer substitutions and lower-cost specs. They can assist with value analysis/value engineering and engage in conversations on lease vs. buy decisions and what the optimal service levels should be. With spend consolidation, procurement can highlight relevant co-ops and alliances that may be worth aligning with to purchase a specific category.

They can help with standardization of specifications, thereby helping with consolidation of spend against those specs. Finally, with consumption reduction, procurement can collaborate with their internal customer in looking for ways to reduce or eliminate need, extend life, etc.

SM: Any other big contributions that procurement professionals can provide to the larger enterprise?

SK: Better articulating the value they deliver, and getting involved in business planning and budgeting. Procurement’s value goes beyond just cost savings. They can assist in finding suppliers that offer the best quality and service levels. They can assist with mitigating supplier- and supply continuity risk, and optimizing working capital.

SM: Are there any barriers to transformation in your organization?

SK: A perception of procurement as a back-office function and not as a competitive advantage.

SM: How have you deployed technology to your advantage?

SK: Driving self-service procurement within KPMG.

SM: How vital is industry intelligence to you in your role, to your team and to KPMG?

SK: Very important.

SM: How does your team anticipate changes or trends in the industry?

SK: Our clients, and the KPMG Procurement Center of Excellence (CoE).

SM: What are some of the resources you go to for research in your procurement organization?

SK: Spend Matters, the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) and SIG.

SM: What are the key traits you look for in partnering organizations (or potential partners)?

SK: Willingness to push the envelope, a collaborative style of working, and flexibility.

SM: What types of value do your partner firms provide to KPMG’s practice?

SK: Procurement needs a few “wins” and should select those business partners carefully. They should make a conscious effort to publicize their successes and leverage their partners in this exercise in order to penetrate other parts of the organization.

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