The Four Faces of Procurement – Spend Matters Top Papers

In the run up to Christmas and my passing over the Spend Matters UK/Europe reins, we’re going to feature some of the briefing papers I’ve written over the past eight years. We’ll ignore for now those published in 2018 – but we will run through those again in the first week of January to get you back into work mode and thinking about serious matters again.

So, in no particular order, we’ll have a dozen or so of the 80 (yes, 80) papers we’ve featured here. And let’s start today with what is still, I believe, our most downloaded ever paper – the Four Faces of Procurement.  Here’s what we said back in 2013 …


Some of the research papers and briefings I write are quite an effort. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good (I hope) – just that they require some time and the odd cold towel around the forehead to get to the point I’m happy with the finished product.  And some are really enjoyable to write, and flow from start to finish. Now that doesn’t mean they’re better of course – it is probably more reflective of a topic I feel particularly interested in, or having thoughts that I’m excited to share.

So our latest research paper was one of those. It’s sponsored by Gatewit, and it’s called “The Four Faces of Procurement”. It looks a few years ahead at the skills, capabilities and characteristics that I believe will be needed by procurement people if they’re going to thrive in the world of procurement and supply chain management in 2020.

We start by looking at a very quick overview of how procurement has developed in the last 50 years, to see if that gives us any clues as to the future. Then we consider what the environment might look like in 2020. That’s necessary because the requirements for procurement success will be dictated by the wider objectives and situations of the organisations in which we’re working, and the wider social, economic and political landscape.

That takes us into the heart of the Paper and my hypothesis that procurement people will need to focus on how to work across two key dimensions or axes. The best professionals will be adept at managing across both the external / internal axis, and the analytical  / inter-personal axis.

Combining those two axes gives us four quadrants that describe different characteristics for procurement – the most successful individuals will be those who can play any of the four roles at the appropriate time. We call these the “four faces of procurement” and describe them like this:

The Diplomat  – worldly, sophisticated, connected but tough

The Analyst  - understanding global trends, data, markets and suppliers

The Investigator – using internally generated data to drive value opportunities

The  Leader - working with internal colleagues to deliver organisational value

That’s enough for today and I hope it whets your appetite for the whole paper!  It isn’t too long, it is easy to read rather than deeply theoretical, but I believe it will make readers think about their own skills and future – do you have what it takes to be a Diplomat? Or an Investigator?

We will feature some excerpts from it here over the next few weeks, but please don’t wait for that – download it now from the Spend Matters research library.

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