Why is procurement always the bad guy?

It happened to me on so many occasions. We were flagged as the ones delaying everything. The admin staff whose job is only to type the LPO. And, as per them, we were not able even to do this good enough. 

Generally, the procurement team does not have a great reputation in the organization. I believe that this is rooted in the way we do our jobs. And that it is in part our fault. 

So here are a couple of things I tell my team to do:

Manage timeline expectations

I see very often stakeholders stating deadlines for their requirements. Sometimes completely unrealistic. Quite often so short that we must cut corners to achieve them. While I understand that sometimes there is a business requirement, many times it is only a habit of the stakeholder. When I asked one manager why he needs it in three days. his response was “, ask to get it in three, they will provide in seven. This is how it happens every time.” And procurement becomes the department that is always late. Timelines should be given in advance, in the procedures. And then communicated every time. Which brings us to the second point.

Keep your promises

If we say Wednesday, we mean Wednesday before going home. Not Thursday morning. And do not even think of submitting next week. I see so many procurement professionals saying a timeline or agreeing to the proposal without thinking. When asked, it was very clear that they have no clue whether the timeline is even possible. Do not promise a price reduction of 30% if you did not do market research or already spoke to the supplier. Sales may offer an extra discount to the client based on your word. And then the project delivers at loss. Same goes for deliveries, supplier feedback etc. Once the stakeholders understand that we mean it when we say it, life will be much easier. Which does not mean that the pressure will go away. Some people are like this. No matter what you say, they will push for more. Be reasonable, but keep your ground. And deliver. Each time.

Be transparent

Our job is to provide information. Both good and bad. I know that it is not easy to tell your boss that the budget for the new project fell apart because the suppliers asked much more than calculated. But this increases our reputation as a source of truth. Also, always present the case in such a manner that the response should be a “yes” or “no”. Put yourself in the shoes of the stakeholder and try to imagine all questions he would ask. And provide the answer. 

Data is our friend

I am always telling the story of the financial controller that was signing the LPO’s. If there is any price increase, we had to go out and get three quotes. Even if the actual total monthly cost will be minor. While on the other hand, the decreases were always ignored. Once I made a report showing the total annual savings, the rules were removed. As our small cost reductions were on items with high volume. Modern ERP’s can give you almost any kind of data you require to make strong statements to the management. Use them.

Use technology

Create a project group on teams. The place with all files and post updates. How many emails and wrong contract versions can be avoided this way? Ask your software vendor to create stop-light style status notifications on the Purchase request module. The still actual COVID-19 pandemic taught us to work remotely. Use the knowledge once back in the office to streamline the communication. I have used Slack, Asana and a couple of other free tools. And they work. 

We all have read the stories of CPO’s whose opinions are respected. And teams that hit headlines with their latest achievements. This is the start of the journey to becoming a “Premier league” procurement professional.

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