David Atkinson on the Role of Procurement – Trusted Advisors?

Whilst the debate around commissioning or procurement appears at first sight to be a public sector issue,  it is indicative of wider questions for the procurement function in any organisation or sector. And that leads on to some pretty fundamental questions about the whole nature of procurement..

If we consider the confusion around commissioning, and how it differs from procurement - if indeed it does – we’d suggest it raises these three questions.

  • What is it that defines our “profession” and the true role of procurement?
  • How do we and should we interact with other functions and others in our organisations?
  • Where is procurement heading in the future?

Pretty fundamental questions, as you can see, and no, we’re not going to answer them and solve the mysteries of the universe in the next 300 words!

David Atkinson looks thoughtful

But someone else who thinks deeply about these and other procurement issues is David Atkinson. An ex-Rolls Royce Procurement Director, he is now a consultant, coach, trainer and lecturer – as well as a keen Tweeter and now a blogger.

He recently wrote on his Four Pillars website about the commissioning debate, and it is an interesting and thought provoking piece – “Whole Enterprise procurement: and end to the turf wars?” His view is that the future of procurement lies in being the “trusted adviser” to our senior colleagues in our business / organisation. He doesn’t believe that we will ever have the barriers to entry that professions such as law and medicine enjoy, which would make it possible for us to have a defendable “professional” exclusivity. I’m fully with him on that. So the trusted advisor positioning is more appropriate - here he is explaining what he means.

“My contention is that procurement’s future lies in developing consulting skills; becoming the trusted advisor to the organisation’s service and product users/stakeholders (or shall we say ‘commissioners’?). Procurement needs to become comfortable with sharing its expertise, helping its stakeholders develop into savvy and intelligent customers to their suppliers and service providers, skilled in both technical and commercial aspects of business”.

One consequence of that is he sees fewer people actually sitting in designated procurement departments or roles. But more people across the organisation will need procurement type skills – as he describes it, our role is, in part at least, “enabling the whole enterprise to become consciously competent in procurement”.

Do read the whole excellent article here. I’m largely in agreement with him, with a couple of important caveats, to which we will return tomorrow.

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Voices (2)

  1. Brian Oakley:

    I Agree with David’s comments but would add, procurement people need the ability to assimilate all needs of their stakeholders, who also have their goals,objectives and expertise, which in some instances could be considered, not best procurement practice.
    That is the challenge for procurement.

  2. bitter and twisted:

    ‘All professions are conspiracies against the laity’ – George Bernard Shaw.

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