Procurement Transformation – Getting a sponsor

(We’re delighted to feature another post in the series on Procurement Transformation from Dr Ian George. Ian is a senior partner and practicing consultant at Agile Partners, has an engineering background, and has worked in procurement for the last 20 years. His doctorate looked in detail at procurement transformation programmes).

When the senior management team endorse your proposals for a Procurement transformation programme that does not constitute sponsorship or support for how you intend to achieve it. Quite often the signal coming from the management team is that they want the benefits, but haven’t really thought about the means by which they will be delivered. This doesn’t mean they are vaguely stupid, just that they are very busy and simultaneously focusing on a multitude of issues, all of which could have an equally significant impact on the performance of the enterprise.

Sometimes your sponsor will present themselves by default, your immediate manager or a senior stakeholder who has a compelling interest in what you can do for them. Being able to choose is the best option, if you can.

Although senior individuals may be willing to act as sponsor, it is surprising how many do not fully understand what they are committing to. Each role will be unique to the organisation, the individuals involved and the incumbent culture. Therefore, the role needs to be negotiated and carefully framed around the key challenges that will need to be overcome.

Many sponsors believe their role is to provide expertise and tell the team what to do. Instead, their role in the programme should be to act as the conscience of the group, ensuring due diligence and robustness in the work performed. To this end, it is often advantageous to have a sponsor that knows little about procurement but much about the organisation and its people.

But, it is not just about what they can do for you. It is also about what you need to do for them to keep them interested and engaged with the achievement of your objectives. This means feeding them with ammunition and protection so they don’t become exposed by your inaction. Although this may suggest dependence, the intent is to create interdependence focused on the pursuit and delivery of objectives. T

here will be times when you need to lean hard on your sponsor for support, but this needs to be done sparingly and never seen as a crutch for whenever things get a little bit difficult. Remember they are watching you as much for your leadership as they are for ensuring the success of the programme. Ultimately, you need to be thinking about how you can make the sponsor look good. When they recognise this, they are more likely to do the same rather than ensure everyone knows they had to rescue you again.

Securing a good sponsor will increase the potential success of the programme and open up a new network of individuals ready to support with invaluable advice and enabling action. Achieving the programme is the ultimate aim. However, the learning that can be taken forward into future activities will build your own capabilities and strengthen the performance of the organisation.

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