BravoSolution session – “Taking on a new category”- slides available now

The first Real World Sourcing event last week on “Taking on a New Category” (sponsored by BravoSolution) went well, we felt. And the slides are now available on the BravoSolution website here. You can then also take the short “test” once you’ve been through the slides as well.

In addition, Bravo are offering a scholarship – you must attend three of the sessions, and complete the “tests” for all of them. The ten best entrants will be invited to a dinner in December, where the winner will be announced and will receive a scholarship of £2,500 to spend on development activities (e.g. the new Spend Matters MBA in Strategic Procurement and Real Ale).

Seriously, you might use it towards CIPS, IIAPS or other courses, study material or whatever you think would help improve your own capabilities. And if you would like to join the BravoSolution Education Network, which gives access to lots of other interesting material, then please email Sarah Clarke at

Back to the session itself - a very strong theme was the need to understand, align to and gain credibility with stakeholders. Understanding how they feel about you, or procurement generally getting involved with “their” category is vital. Now you may be accepted very easily if procurement has a track record in that area and you’re just the new manager; but if it is a category that is new for procurement then you may face more resistance.

We’d suggest you need to build credibility quickly, and to do that you need to listen to the stakeholders, respect their expertise and experience, particularly  if they have deep professional knowledge - for instance it’s the General Counsel you’re dealing with,  and the category is Legal Services.  And there is always a balance – listening and being respectful, yet not being afraid to challenge, suggest alternatives or argue your corner when you feel that is important.

So in categories that are likely to be “difficult” from a stakeholder perspective, the procurement executive needs to combine a high degree of personal sensitivity with some real “intestinal fortitude” (as Guy Allen memorably puts it), in order to be able to stand their ground when it’s important to do so.

You also need to understand what you bring to the debate – you must have some expertise to offer over and above what the stakeholder could do themselves. Is that your knowledge of procurement and tendering processes? Understanding of complex commercial and payment models (risk sharing etc.) that they may not have considered? Is it very up-to-date market knowledge, perhaps gained from information sources the stakeholder may not currently use? You need to work out what your contribution will be to managing the category better.

We also talked in last week’s session about some techniques you can use to establish stakeholder views and priorities; for example, mapping priorities visually to see where procurement and different stakeholder groups might be aligned or not aligned.

Procurement people rarely fail because the boss or a key business stakeholder doesn’t think their technical skills are very good. They do struggle where a key stakeholder doesn’t give them support because “procurement just don’t understand my problems” or “they’re working to totally different objectives”. Those are the sort of reasons I’ve seen that cause problems – right up to CPO level.

So if you – or your function – is taking on a new category, the message is work hard to get the stakeholders on board, understand their position, and align yourself as far as possible with their priorities and requirements.  Do that, and the category management world is yours....

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