More from Ivalua – Timberlake, Rihanna and the Voice of Procurement

The theme of the recent Ivalua customer event that I co-chaired was “the Voice of Procurement”.

So for our opening address, Alex Saric (CMO for the firm) and I had to find a couple of good links between music and procurement, and one of them came courtesy of a recent Economist magazine article, spotted by Alex.

It is here and outlines how musical collaborations have become increasingly significant in terms of top selling/streamed songs on the US Billboard charts. Almost 50% last year were collaborations – and as at last week, 7 of the 10 top tracks in the UK and 13 of the top 20 were similar in nature.

Some are reasonably “obvious” – a dance producer plus a big-voiced female singer perhaps. But others, like Justin Timberlake and country star Chris Stapleton, are less so. But the artists (and the folk sitting behind them) see the benefits. You can appeal to multiple fan bases, get picked up by two or more different genres in terms of radio stations, Spotify / Pandora playlists and so on, and the bringing together of different talents can add something new to the mix – 2 plus 2 equals five, if you like.

And much of this can apply in business. Firms collaborating can open up new markets, bring each other’s products or skills to each other’s customer base, and look for where that synergy can add additional value. That’s why collaboration has become almost a cliché in business terms in recent years, yet (I would argue) procurement has not fully caught up with this trend.

So the basics of traditional procurement are around competitive selection processes, formal tenders and bids, adversarial negotiation and contractual argument and – too often – a sort of mutual suspicion within a just-about-working relationship once the contract is up and running.

But that’s not the model for a successful collaboration between partners who bring different skills to the table for mutual benefit. There is still a need to defend your organisation’s position in any agreements, but more important is how we can structure commercial and contractual relationships that work in the world of Timberlake / Stapleton or (one of my favourite tracks of recent years) McCartney / West / Rihanna. Incidentally, when FourFiveSeconds came out in 2015, there were Rihanna and Kanye fans who had no clue who McCartney was, just as some old Beatles fans realised for the first time that Rhianna has a great voice and West is basically a (mad and annoying) genius.

Anyway, if we are going to contribute in this new world, we need to find new ways of finding partners, of putting together commercial agreements that are mutually beneficial, robust but co-operative in nature, and managing those relationships to drive value for all the partners.

If procurement really wants to continue to play a major role in organisations, we need to think about how to make these new relationship models work because they will get more important – just as they have already in the accelerated and cutting-edge world of popular music.

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