10 Ways To Develop Procurement Skills Without Spending A Fortune!

We wrote last week about the Deloitte CPO survey, and mentioned one shocking finding. It was the same last year too in the equivalent survey, we remember; some 60% of CPOs don’t think their teams have the necessary skills to deliver the organisation’s  procurement strategy.

Now we might excuse those CPOs who are very new in their roles, but this is such a fundamental issue, it seems remarkable that there are so many organisations in this position. You have to say that the CPO is failing if – once they have been in post a year or more – they believe this. Developing the capability to deliver the strategy must be very near the top of any CPO's priority list.

One reason often given for this apparent failure is that the organisation will not invest in training and development for procurement staff, and there was some evidence along those lines in the Deloitte report. But not all development activities cost a lot of money – in fact, some don’t cost anything (except maybe some time and brain power). So rather than just criticising the state of the CPO world, we thought we would try and be useful. So this week we will feature our series titled "10 Ways To Develop Procurement Skills Without Spending A Fortune!"

But before we get into those ideas, let’s just turn things on their head for a moment, because there is another way of addressing this problem. If the team is not capable of delivering the strategy, there are actually two possible approaches (as well as sacking the CPO, that is). One is to develop, improve and upskill the team (including recruitment if required), but the other is to make the strategy more achievable with the resources that you’ve got or are likely to be able to get.

That’s an interesting thought actually. We wonder how many organisations have actually set procurement strategies that frankly are totally unachievable in the desired timescale, with the team currently in place, and with the constraints that may also be relevant – such as an inability to pay upper quartile salaries, or a Board that doesn’t really support procurement. In such cases, perhaps looking at taking the strategic ambition down a notch or two might be worth considering. Not everybody can be “best in class”, after all. But it is tough to admit that a strategy of being “quite good” at procurement might be as far as you’re likely to get – even if it is true!

Anyway, let’s get back to the more ambitious goal of making sure the organisation can deliver a worthwhile and reasonably leading-edge procurement strategy. So we will be back tomorrow with five ideas that can contribute towards the goal and draw on internal resource, then in the final article we will look at five more ideas that are more external in nature.

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First Voice

  1. David Atkinson:

    Creating a procurement transformation plan that takes little account of the competence (skills, if you like) and capacity (bandwidth) of the team, is nothing more than a ‘hope for the best’ strategy. A bit like a chocolate fireguard.

    I remember speaking at a conference some years ago where the speaker before me waxed lyrical about how important it was for the new CPO to fire most of the people and replace them with MBAs. Now, I have nothing against MBAs (I have one myself, and regularly teach those studying for them), but I have rarely heard anything so preposterous in all my time. And I said so when I took the stage. It was the only time I’ve made a conference speech where there was applause DURING my talk.

    And to me, it was demonstration of how little some people think about how to develop strategy for the real world (the one where you can’t fire all of the people, any time you like), and that team coherence, cross-functional working, and appropriate skill development are far more important to success than having ambitions far beyond what is practical and realistic in the particular circumstance the CPO is in. Like someone once said, hope is not a strategy.

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