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Procurement: The career that puts you in the driver’s seat

07/08/2021 By


Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Stephen Day, the Chief Procurement Officer at Kantar.

I often tell people that procurement is the foundation of success in business. Just in case there are any uninitiated readers out there, it’s worth taking a moment to define what we’re talking about. In the simplest terms, “procurement” just means getting stuff. Anything an organization could need, from product components to employee management software to distributors, the procurement department is the one responsible for getting it — and ensuring the value of that “stuff” supports the growth and goals of the organization. Put all those things together from one end to the other, and you have a “supply chain.”

It’s very well known that the companies with the best supply chains have the best chances of successfully innovating within their market and the highest likelihood of long-term growth. It’s also true on an individual level. By that, I mean that working in procurement puts you in a position to influence both growth and profitability while also setting you up for a long, rewarding career.

How do you find the right procurement technology and vendor for your company? Spend Matters’ new 5-step “Procurement Technology Buyer’s Guide” can help — with how-to documents, checklist templates and other tips.

Only a few of us will ever live out the Tim Cook fairy tale ­— Cook went from procurement specialist to CEO of Apple — but regardless of where your career takes you, the opportunities that you’ll come into contact with in procurement are, in my opinion, unparalleled. Here are some of the areas you’re in control of when working in the field that puts you in the driver’s seat.

Drive your career

From networking and negotiating to risk management and data systems, working in the supply chain department teaches you an incredible amount about business as a whole. To succeed in procurement, you have to learn to be logical as well as creative; cautious but able to take calculated risks; good at saving but great at spending.

These are skills you can leverage in many different ways, whether it’s getting a higher-paid position, working your way up the executive ladder, or starting your own enterprise. And, if you wanted to leave business behind completely to pursue art, education, or some other career instead, you’d still benefit greatly from the abilities you developed in procurement.

It’s not a coincidence that Tim Cook’s background was in supply chains. Could Apple have hired someone who excelled in some other area, like marketing, tech or sales? Absolutely. But, based on the company’s track record since Cook’s appointment to the top spot, they clearly made the right choice.

Drive change

E, S, and G are arguably the most important three letters in business during the 21st century so far. Wherever you see them combined in the acronym ESG, they stand for environmental (impact), social (impact), and governance (impact). If a company has a high ESG rating, it signifies a commitment to sustainability, transparency and accountability. The better the rating, the more investments the company is likely to attract and the more contracts it’s likely to win.

Where does a company’s ESG performance come from? Answer: the procurement department.

Think about it like this. Top executives like the CEO and CFO are often the ones to create company-wide ESG initiatives. Someone, however, has to do the legwork of actually identifying business partnerships and social needs that align with the company’s ESG goals. That someone can inevitably be found in the procurement department. Whether it’s emphasizing sustainable operations, benefiting impoverished regions, or supporting diversity initiatives, supply chains are the place where much of it happens.

Drive innovation

Just like with ESG initiatives, procurement professionals are in a unique position to influence innovation — not only what innovations take place within their organization but also the extent to which innovations in other domains receive attention and investment. There are a lot of questions a CPO or CSCO might ask before approving a new business partnership: Will this benefit my organization? Does the value justify the price? Does this supplier embody values that are worth supporting? Can my company effectively collaborate with them?

The answers to questions like these determine the fate of businesses and serve to strengthen or weaken the relationships and investments that are or could be the source of great innovation. Equal parts power and responsibility, it is the procurement specialist’s task to give or deny support to a given supplier — thereby empowering or diminishing its ability to innovate.

This is so important because, in today’s world, innovation has supplanted invention as the great disruptor. Less and less often is it new technologies that change the destinies of individuals, companies or cultures. Instead, it’s innovative ways of combining and using technology, and which technologies receive visibility and funding is largely a byproduct of supply chain dynamics.


Supply chain professionals are a diverse bunch. They are creative, personable people with an eye for intelligent risk-taking. They are also competitive, hyper-analytical individuals working on the cutting edge of technology. In many ways, they are change-makers, social engineers and cultural influencers.

Whether they leverage these qualities to benefit themselves, the organizations they work for, society at large, or all the above, one thing is certain: They are in the driver’s seat.

Spend Matters’ SolutionMap and TechMatch℠ offer a helpful benchmark when you’re ready to identify a procurement technology provider. But, before you get to this point, you must successfully make the case for investment within your organization — and that’s a major hurdle for many.