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The procurement guys’ last 365 days: Impact of COVID-19

COVID impacted all of us. Some very hard, some not so much. What I would like to do is to share the lessons I have learned the hard way. So, you do not have to go the same route. And they are generally applicable for a procurement professional. Not that you will have to wait for another pandemic to use them.

1. Nothing lasts forever

Back in March 2020, I was working on a big expansion project. We aimed to double our production capacity. Planning was in full swing, regular meetings to get everything right. In May, the project was scrapped. In June the company went down to 20% of its initial production capacity. Could anyone predict this? Not really. But keep always in your mind that periods of expansion are followed by periods of contraction. So, no matter how good your company is, how good your team is, bad times will come. Have always a plan B and C. Not an elaborate plan, all you need is to cover the basic risks. Who are your main suppliers and countries of supply? Do you have at least information about alternatives? A couple of worst-case what-if scenarios. Companies that adopted fast strived in the last year. And you want to be the one who came forward with some kind of plan.

2. Keep your important data in the cloud

I believe it happened to all of us. One day we left the office. The next day we were no longer allowed to get in. Many got stuck abroad and had to find a way to continue working. While we do not think too much about data needed for our work in usual circumstances, COVID taught us that things change fast. Therefore, keep everything in the cloud. Make sure you can access the data using your mobile phone. Assure IT has prepared everything in advance. Because when you need it, they will not be around. Your goal is to be able to continue to work using a brand-new laptop within 30 minutes. Unless you are spoiled like I am and spend a day adjusting your menus and views in every application.

3. Dig your well before you get thirsty

This is now more on a personal level. I got laid off in the middle of the pandemic. And, luckily, got a job in less than 2 months. Luck? Of course. But as well the fact that I had a membership in the CIPS, networking with fellow professionals who were feeding me with every possible opening in the area. Also, LinkedIn’s 3000+ contacts, of which I approached 100+ and asked for recommendations. This all did not come overnight. It was a result of two years of network building and knowledge sharing. Be active. Participate. You do not know if and when this will come back to you. But, for me, it was there when I badly needed it.

4. Try not to stick too long in one industry

The fact that I worked in many industries literary saved me during the pandemic. I mean, where would I found a job if I had spent 15 years in hospitality? There are excellent procurement managers and even CPOs who are struggling to get a job. After 20 years in one company and one industry, nobody seems to believe they can change. Sad, but true. I know, earlier the way to get into higher positions was by investing years into the business. But if the business goes down, you are in deep trouble. So, try something new, at least within your organization. If it comes to worst, this may get you a new job.

5.Mastering Change management is a must for any procurement professional

Now you may think why only this? During my job search, I had 5 face-to-face interviews with decision-makers. Not HR, who will ask all these physiological questions. But with people to whom the position reports. At the end of the interview, when asked if I have any questions, I would always ask:

“What is the most important problem or task the person you are hiring needs to solve today?”

In four out of five cases, the answer was around rearranging the process. The team was only getting things done. Procedures are not obeyed, and everyone is cutting corners. The team is nothing more than a bunch of paper pushers. The ERP system is in place, but it is utilized only for basic needs. You got the point. Hence, someone who knows how to change the team will always have a lot to do. And process changes usually boils down to team culture.

6. Never stop learning!

I will never stop telling you this. The world is moving forward. While you are sitting in your cozy office, new technologies are making your competitor very strong. And even worse, he will never want to hire you. As you are not aware of the systems they use, the latest organizational structure.

In many articles, I have read that Supply Chain came into the spotlight due to the pandemic. That companies are increasingly looking for the best talents. Are you the best talent? Are you aware of what is going on? Don’t let the termination letter wake you up. 

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