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Procurement positions and job descriptions

Unfortunately, there is no clear classification of procurement-related positions. Some folks have the title procurement assistant and are responsible for contracts valued millions of dollars, while others are VP’s of procurement for a grocery store. Plus, there is some strange designation in between, that will confuse someone not familiar with them.

Procurement assistant is the starting position in procurement. The daily job of an assistant is to issue and send orders and follow up for deliveries. Also, all administrative and database maintenance tasks sit with the assistant(s). They are as well involved in RFQ’s and tender, but mostly with no direct responsibilities for the outcome.

Buyer is the first real purchasing position. The buyer takes responsibility for the complete tactical purchasing process: RFQ’s, negotiations, contract signature, orders and follow-ups. Buyers have usually good market knowledge and know more about the market than the managers.

Senior Buyer is a position very similar to the buyer. The prefix “senior” comes either as they manage a small team of buyers or assistants, or they procure goods that are of significant value.

Category Manager is focused on one category of goods or services. For example meat, plastic packaging, IT, marketing, insurance, company travel… During the time they gather such an experience in their category that it often happens that they know more about the products than the sales guys. Categories are assigned narrower or broader, usually based on the annual spend per category. Hence, it is possible to have a Category Manager for chicken and in the same company a category manager for all other food products. Categorization can as well be done by region and end-use. For example, in Airlines there is a Category Manager for Aircraft appearance, which includes linen, blankets, pillows, newspapers and magazines. 

Project buyer is, as the name says, assigned to a project and takes care of all purchases that are used directly in the project execution. This is quite often in EPC companies (Engineering, Procurement, Construction), in large infrastructure, energy or construction projects.

Technical buyer is sitting halfway between the Operations and procurement team. Not literary, of course. Technical buyers are usually engineers with extensive technical knowledge that helps them in creating very detailed RFQ’s and analyzing the receives quotes not only on commercial but as well as technical terms. In complex industries (electronics, chemicals, oil&gas) they are a necessity.

Sourcing manager in many cases does not have day-to-day tasks. Instead, he is the one who is listening to the needs of the stakeholders and trying to find new suppliers that can solve the problem. I imagine real Strategic sourcing managers like Indiana Jones, travelling wide and far to find the supplier with a superb yet cheap product. It is a quite specific position, usually outside of the regular hierarchy of the team.

Strategic Procurement Manager position is subject to discussion between two “opinions”. One group of professionals claims that the Strategic procurement manager shall deal with the overall strategy, which means that he will look into analytics reports, company strategies and create a strategy for the procurement team: on what and how they need to focus in the next years. The other group claims that the Strategic Procurement Manager shall focus on items or suppliers or services that are of critical, i.e. Strategic importance for the company. So, he will have one task only, to develop the relationship, contract and strategically develop one or a couple of supplier at the most, the ones that are critical for the company.

Procurement Manager is usually the highest procurement-related position in Small and Medium Companies. He is the person that oversees the department and manages buyers or assistants. The procurement manager is usually responsible for one factory/region, if the company is present in multiple locations.

Chief Procurement Officer, also called Vice President – Procurement is the highest position in Procurement. It is reserved for Managers that have a seat at the so-called “c-level” board. You will find these positions at multinational companies, and in this position, the CPO is focused on group strategies and alignment along with local procurement teams.

Procurement is in some companies replaced with purchasing, just to make it a bit more interesting. O, by the way, on the link below you will find 99 names for Procurement Professionals. Seems we are quite creative when it comes to making fancy positions for us.

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