5 pieces of knowledge that a career in procurement teaches you and what they can do for your future
Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Stephen Day, the Chief Procurement Officer at Kantar, on how procurement knowledge can bolster careers in other areas of business.
It’s not hard for something to qualify as an underrated benefit in procurement. Most of us wound up in the field because it offers well-paid, stable, in-demand work, not because of a long list of extra perks to the job. Nonetheless, those perks do exist — including quite a few that often go overlooked. Here are five areas of procurement knowledge that deserve special mention:
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1. Systems and data knowledge
The core of all enterprises is value being transferred between companies in various forms: goods, services, data and more. Working in procurement puts you at the center of all that, in a sort of nexus where all things meet. Understanding supply and distribution, whether it’s upstream or downstream, gives unique insights into these value transactions.
People in sales or marketing may be concerned with what the customer experience is, but procurement professionals know what it takes to provide that experience every step of the way. The magic of data analysts lies in their ability to curate dashboards of valuable information. The magic of supply chain managers is in knowing why much of that data is so important.
2. People knowledge
Supply chain work also exposes you to people with a diverse range of personalities, backgrounds and motivators. In the process, you’re introduced to virtually every facet of human nature you could want to know about, and then some. This is not just knowledge — it’s also the basis of critical skills.
As manual processes and operations become more and more automated, those skills will only increase in value, not only in procurement but throughout organizations. Supply chains (and businesses in general) don’t work without people, so the benefit of gaining interpersonal skills can’t be overstated.
3. ESG knowledge
Procurement is a convenient platform for learning about the importance of things like environmental impact and value alignment in business and community partnerships. Does your organization work with vendors, contractors and communities that share its values or complement its purpose? Does it prioritize sustainable operations? Knowing the supply chain gives you the best window into the answers to questions like these.
Why does it matter? Investors aren’t interested in companies with high ESG performance because it looks good. They’re interested because they know it represents a deep commitment to success on many levels. Understanding the ESG landscape gives you a leg up no matter where you go in business — up, down or sideways.
4. Investment knowledge
There’s nothing more vital to strategic investment than understanding the difference between price and value. Value is fundamental, while price is arbitrary. Or, as Warren Buffett puts it, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”
This doesn’t just apply to venture capitalism or stock market investments. It also applies to investments from within an organization. A common misconception about procurement is that supply chains are built around price, when actually, they’re built around value. Almost anyone can chase down low prices. Far fewer learn how to strategically leverage value into a competitive advantage.
5. Risk dynamics knowledge
Finally — and this might seem the most obvious — working in procurement teaches you the importance of managing risks up and down the supply chain. What’s not so obvious is the extent to which this knowledge has become a sought-after quality, particularly in the wake of a pandemic that drastically disrupted global supply chains.
Modern companies know that smart business is built on smart supply, which includes predicting and mitigating risks that are close to the organization as well as risks that are further away, such as in the respective markets of second- or third-tier vendors. This big-picture understanding is not just helpful within the procurement department but in every arm of an organization and, again, is something that will be an asset should you ever choose to move up in or across the business environment.
Bottom line: Procurement knowledge benefits your career
The wonderful thing about working in procurement isn’t just that opportunities for learning exist. After all, you could say the same about almost any type of employment. What’s so great is that these specific opportunities to gain procurement knowledge combine to form a rock-solid foundation for almost anything you could want to accomplish in business, whether that’s working your way up to the top executive position, becoming a consultant or advisory board member, or going your own way as an entrepreneur.
Few, if any, other roles in a given company offer such an expansive view of the entire organization — or the ability to exert such powerful influence over both bottom-line profitability and top-line growth.