Some Practical Advice on Improving Stakeholder Engagement

One of the afternoon tracks on Day 2 of ProcureCon Indirect covered the theme of stakeholder engagement and management, and it kicked off with an opening address from Graham Crawshaw, Global Services Director at CASME.

One of the things we like best about attending these events is that we get to meet, and learn about, organisations we hadn’t come across before – CASME being one. It is a global membership community that links up procurement professionals with others to share information, ideas, analysis and strategies, and provides networking opportunities. It’s also a source of specialist information, providing benchmarking services and reports, and running networking events. Graham, a procurement analyst among other things, is a facilitator of these events and gets involved in developing benchmarking activities covering a broad range of procurement categories and practices.

Representing the collective views, as he said, of some 13.5K procurement professionals (members) from some of the big multi-nationals across 70 countries, he offered some advice on engaging better with stakeholders. The topic tied in well with the rest of the day, since it would be difficult to put in place the many strategies that were discussed on the likes of robotic process automation and AI without having secured the buy-in of stakeholders – be that your suppliers, senior management or internal customers (the budget holders).

It’s a subject that’s stood the test of time, because, as he points out, everyone thinks they can buy (and therefore don’t need procurement). So how do you engage them if they adopt that viewpoint?

So in a Slido live poll he asked the audience (of about 150 procurement professionals): What is the most important activity procurement can do to help stakeholders engage?

Focusing on stakeholders’ objectives came out on top – with 67% of the audience vote. Second, but a fair way behind at 28%, came Demonstrate procurement’s value to them. And behind that at only 4% was Sharing supplier knowledge. Perhaps surprisingly, Giving them support on risk and governance, didn’t even get a vote.

So much for what we think about stakeholders. Looking at it another way, how then does the business perceive Procurement? A CASME survey - which asked stakeholders if they thought of Procurement as an effective business partner - revealed that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being ‘not at all’ (including ‘I’m not even aware of Procurement as a business function’) and 10 being ‘totally,’ 38% ranked it as number 7. Ranking numbers 6 and 8 got almost equal shares of the vote, at about 20% each. Another question measured the extent to which stakeholders think Procurement delivers services to meet their objectives. The results were very similar. So clearly there’s some work to be done there!

Extracted from a benchmarking exercise CASME had carried out, Graham gave an overview of the top five activities that define what procurement can do to improve stakeholder engagement:

  • Firstly, make a list of the stakeholders you think would benefit from better or more engagement. Do some profiling, maybe use a gold/silver/bronze approach to help quantify the amount of engagement needed.
  • Understand their requirements – that means getting out there and talking to them (not sitting behind an email or survey - ironically, the survey said!). And it’s important to talk to them in their language – not procurement speak.
  • Then align procurement’s activities with theirs. Business stakeholders want to hear about benefits, what you can offer and the value you can bring to them.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of suppliers, categories, markets etc. All the things that they aren’t as au fait with.
  • And to really get them on-board, don’t aim too high. Start by helping them with something small, and establish your credibility with them.

It was also established that the key to successful engagement is communication of Procurement’s value. Methods for achieving that include:

  • Presenting at stakeholder team meetings
  • Using the company website as a tool
  • Gathering and publishing testimonials
  • Newsletters

And straight from the CASME community, Graham shared members’ thoughts on what they found helps: integrating information about Procurement into employee on-boarding process, sharing of data and recommendations, investing in supplier days, taking stakeholders through your strategy, holding internal roadshows, and, appointing a cross-function relationship manager.

Once you understand and are focused on company objectives – not Procurement’s – you can start to suggest process efficiencies. Then you can move on to other objectives, like innovation and highlighting of opportunities. Ultimately, the point is, Procurement needs to be that link between suppliers and other stakeholders. But it requires a joint effort! Some very good suggestions from Graham, and an interesting community, which you can read about and join here.

 

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