Dinner with Xoomworks – a procurement seat at the top table

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a dinner for Xoomworks in the Tower 42 – what used to be the NatWest Tower in the City of London, and was sold actually by the Bank back in the days I worked for them. (It’s a good venue by the way, with good food and spectacular views, although having to go through airport-style security to get in is a little off putting perhaps).

Xoomworks are a procurement consulting business, founded in 2000 by some ex big-firm people, and with a strong focus on the technology side of things – for instance they have dedicated experts covering SAP, Ariba and Coupa software solutions, as well as consultants who have a procurement practitioner background.  But the focus of the evening wasn’t particularly technology – they asked me to speak and then lead a discussion around how procurement (and senior procurement people) can get that mythical "seat at the top table". Always a good subject to stir up debate!

I covered three elements to that – functional mastery, results and personal characteristics. Putting it very briefly (and maybe we’ll come back to these in more detail), I believe we have to ;

  • show as individuals and functions that we really know what we’re doing in our own sphere of procurement / supply chain activities;
  • deliver credible and tangible results, aligned to our organisation’s wider goals; and
  • demonstrate as individuals that we have the appropriate characteristics and skills to belong at the top levels of the organisation.


After my comments, the discussion was very lively and went on long after I thought everyone would have settled back into chat and a few glasses of wine. We had quite a few people there from financial services, with an interesting perspective on how procurement can succeed in that environment where, given the nature of the business, it’s never going to be at the very top of the CEOs agenda.

One perhaps surprising point was a widely shared feeling that procurement functions  might have to give up some lower value work – going as far as outsourcing even – in order to position themselves in the really interesting, value-adding areas of the business. That was driven both by a need to use scarce procurement talent in the most valuable areas, and to move the function’s positioning away from being “the folk who buy the stationery”. And some of the examples given by guests, with procurement contributing to complex commercial issues going way beyond traditional areas, were quite inspiring.

Thanks to Xoomworks for hosting the event – and they have put together this short video – apologies for the rather extreme close up near the end!

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