Strategic Procurement – Caroline Booth’s new book reviewed

Well, I say new but it was published last Autumn, so apologies for my slowness in reviewing it!  "Strategic Procurement - Organizing suppliers and supply chains for competitive advantage" is published by Kogan Page and available here.

The author, Caroline Booth, was CPO at Lloyds Banking Group until a few months ago, (and a very good one by general consent), when she emigrated from the UK and became CPO at Toronto Dominion Bank.  I know her reasonably well, and when she casually told me last spring she'd written a book I was pretty surprised - how she found time to write this while doing that job through the period of the HBOS acquisition and banking crisis I don't know.  Very impressive; and she writes well, in a personal, non-academic, easy to read but professional manner.

Strategic Procurement is an unusual procurement book in that it is aimed perhaps more at executives outside the function than those inside.  That's not a criticism; if we're serious about getting more recognition at senior levels, we need to get ideas across to senior people.   Whether it will be easy to get them to buy this sort of book I don't know, but the objective of informing and educating C-suite executives seems very worthwhile .

It makes for an interesting mix of content, in that some of it might seem quite basic for a procurement audience (explanations of supply chains, Kraljic matrix), while other sections talk at a Board level about supplier relationships, strategic outsourcing and similar ideas.  Having said that, as well as being undoubtedly useful to the non-specialist readership, it would be well worth reading for bright people coming into the procurement function, to give them the 'big picture' of how procurement contributes to the wider organisation and the strategic issues around that.

It is also a good thought provoking read for senior practitioners; anyone, however experienced, will find something to spark ideas.  That's in part because one of the book's main strengths is Booth's use of examples and experience from her time in the profession as a CPO and senior consultant.  The 'war stories' are very good and interesting; for instance, her tips on successful procurement transformation, based on her experience, are very pertinent to anyone embarking on such a programme.

I also like her combination of pragmatism and professionalism.  She understands the need for structure, governance and process in procurement; yet she also recognises that 'every organisation is different' and (for instance) that a highly mandated, centralised procurement approach won't work everywhere.  Getting results is what matters.

If I had a criticism it is that I found the structure of the book a little confusing; I didn't always get the feel of a logical flow from chapter to chapter.  That does mean it is easy to dip into and read a chapter or two at a time; which let's face it, is what most of us do anyway.

But as a highly readable, useful and thought provoking book, it is undoubtedly to be recommended, and Caroline Booth joins the short list of those who are successful CPOs and writers!

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