Stakeholders, Suppliers, Competitive Advantage and a Webinar next week

Our Real World Procurement session last week with BravoSolution was titled Putting Suppliers at the Centre of Your Organisation.

We covered quite a few somewhat different issues and ideas within that heading, but all centred around the concept that most organisations need to change the way they think about their supplier base. So we asked the question: how many Boards consider their suppliers to be a necessary evil, a nuisance or irritation? Too many we suspect!

Or how many Boards just basically don't think about suppliers at all (or very rarely)? Another significant proportion, in all likelihood. Then we have the few enlightened organisations where the Board understands just how critical their suppliers are to the health of the business. But those are not very common, unfortunately; we had perhaps 20% of our audience feeling that they were in that position last week.

Yet ultimately, much of the competitive advantage that firms can obtain and hold comes to some extent from suppliers. Even if you reckon your competitive advantage is the great people in your business, then a supplier almost certainly helped to recruit them; and other suppliers will support those people's day to day working, presumably in a manner that enables them to be highly motivated and effective.

One thought struck me after the workshop. When we in procurement talk to our senior stakeholders about "what procurement can do for them", how we are going to help and support our colleagues to achieve their own objectives (which is what we should be doing), we often position it in exactly that way - what procurement is doing to help them. But I wonder whether that might be a more convincing and persuasive argument if we stressed how suppliers can (and do) help them? Even those stakeholders who maybe don't currently think about that could be educated to understand the role of suppliers.

The second part of the argument then becomes about the link between suppliers and procurement. If stakeholders appreciate how vital suppliers are, then the role of procurement is to help those colleagues make sure they capture that potential value - and competitive advantage - from the supply base.

It is a slightly more complex argument than the simple "we're from procurement and we're here to help", but I wonder whether it might lead to a more sustainable appreciation from those business colleagues in terms of the importance of both suppliers and procurement? Something to consider, anyway.

And if you are interested in the topic, don’t forget we will be featuring much of the material from the workshop during our webinar with the same title, repeated twice on March 9th at 10am and 4pm UK time (the later one being suitable for US delegates too we hope) – register here, free of charge.

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