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How is Procurement Your Company’s Most Strategic Function?

Part 1:

Try to visualise this scene. Your R&D department has just finalised your new product design. You’re excited! The development from prototype took months. Jeff from procurement happens to walk by.

“Hey, that looks cool.” He picks up your new GPS integrated, smart phone compatible, Spotify connected, ultra slim, fully waterproof fitness watch, and rubs its smooth, sleek finish. “It’s such a shame we’re going to lose the waterproof functionality.”

“What!” You exclaim. “But that’s our core functionality!”

“Really? No-one told us that. Yeah, the supplier of the small silicone O-rings, protecting the watch from the water, has ceased production. We highlighted his company as a risk, but R&D wanted to push on with the spec he designed. We suggested an alternate supplier who was developing a new type of thermoplastic rubber, but we were told we couldn’t wait that long. I think they’re now in partnership with Fast Fitness.”

“How could this have happened! Everything’s ready to go. Our marketing campaign is centred on the waterproof functionality!”

“Hey man don’t ask me; I only work in procurement.”

The evolution of procurement

Sound familiar?

The modern business landscape is dynamic and ever changing. In order to keep the pace, procurement has had to constantly evolve and adapt to these shifting trends. Globalisation, technology, consumer demands, outsourcing, and sustainability, constantly drive change in the business environment. In parallel, procurement has shifted from a function of tactical support to one of a key strategic player.

Modern industries focus more on developing their core capabilities, with 82 % choosing to outsource activities not part of their ‘sweet spot’. The reliance on suppliers has therefore increased exponentially. As the manager of suppliers, procurement has been pivoted into a core strategic role, responsible for sourcing, maintaining, and driving quality suppliers who are innovative, trustworthy, and add value to the company.

The ‘new frontier’ of procurement is the effective management of suppliers, building meaningful, long-lasting relationships that are win-win for both parties. As the critical link between company and supplier, procurement’s strategic role cannot be underestimated.

Strategic procurement is company strategy

In ‘What is the Future of Procurement?’, KPMG (2019) outline that CEOs are looking to the procurement function to adopt a wider set of strategic responsibilities than ever before.

Strategic procurement is built around the needs of the company and supports corporate planning and value systems. In order the company to achieve its long-term goals, corporate, business, and functional levels must have their strategies aligned. This ensures that the vision is united, as everyone is on the same page.

To use a simple example: The Apple brand’s quality design is a core element of the company’s overall strategic plan and unique value proposition. However, if procurement was not aligned with this strategic vision, cheap components could be sourced to achieve cost-savings (which many companies would applaud). However, this is not part of Apple’s long-term goals and would ultimately damage their brand image.

For procurement to be strategic it should:

  1. Be focused on potential risks and opportunities that impact strategic goals.
  2. Be involved in the strategic planning process and be measured in line with these goals.
  3. Be visible, supported, and viewed as an important function in the decision-making process.

Deloitte’s (2018) ‘Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey’ finds that procurement leaders are expanding the role of procurement in the wider supply chain by improving alignment between procurement and business strategies and priorities. Yet, only one in four procurement leaders consider themselves excellent business partners contributing significant strategic value.

The journal of Strategic Change (2016) finds that strategic misalignment results in reduced market share, missed opportunities (often seized by competitors), and lower profit margins.

By including the bargaining power of suppliers as one of his five forces, Porter (1979) laid the foundations for procurement’s strategic role as the key function responsible for conducting market research, identifying supplier opportunities, leveraging negotiations, and correctly managing suppliers.

For long-term strategic goals to be achieved, the procurement function must be included in companies strategic planning processes.

Procurement skills support strategy

Changing perceptions can be a slow and difficult task. The advent of Covid-19 has awakened the world to vulnerabilities inherent within global supply chains, displaying the key strategic role procurement plays in combatting such risks. However, some companies still adhere to the traditional view of procurement as a passive, administrative, cost savings function.

Top management support is vital in driving procurement’s ability to enhance overall company strategy. As procurement operates in a dynamic business environment, management must accommodate for upskilling to allow procurement teams adapt to this rapidly changing landscape.

Yet, Deloitte (2018) finds that 51 % of procurement leaders believe that their current teams do not have sufficient levels of skills and capabilities to deliver on their procurement strategy, with an alarming 72 % of leaders spending less than 2 % of their budgets on training and development.

Companies must change their structures and perceptions to facilitate strategic procurement, otherwise its ability to achieve competitive advantage will never be realised.

 

Written by; Marie Muckley

 

 

Promoting Sustainable and Innovative Procurement Culture: Business Opportunities for Public Partnerships

What is Innovation Procurement?

Innovation procurement can deliver solutions to challenges of public interest, presenting businesses with opportunities through innovative product response. IDDEA procurement expert, Mary Ryan, provides an overview of the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project, offering valuable first-hand insight.

 

Through her involvement in Procurement Transformation Institute (PTI), Mary has had the pleasure of collaborating on the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project. The project aims to facilitate the procurement of goods and services by strengthening links between public buyers on the demand side, and innovative businesses on the supply side. Public buyers are assisted with identifying their needs and are connected with businesses able to develop innovative solutions providing for their requirements. The project provides increased opportunities for businesses, with guidance provided on public authority needs to bid for tenders.

 

The project is EU funded, where five regional schemes are being piloted in Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Andalusia (Spain). The project will finally operate at European level, facilitating the connection of public buyers and suppliers of innovation.

 

Mary explains that “working with such a diverse group of professionals was very rewarding. All participants brought expertise and experience from their own organisations and countries. PTI is a relatively new organisation in Ireland, and through our collaboration in European projects (Innovation Procurement Brokers, Procure 2 Innovate) we can learn so much from our European counterparts.”

 

Innovation Culture and Sustainability: Sourcing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Mary highlights that encouraging an innovation culture is crucial. “It is important for public buyers to look beyond existing frameworks to fit for purpose, innovative goods, that can offer benefits and improvements on what is currently available. Buyers involved in the Innovation Procurement Brokers project, are searching for an innovative solution as a replacement for an existing or new need. In Ireland, a need was identified for sustainable PPE workwear. This encouraged suppliers to think about innovation and provide sustainable solutions.

 

She continues to explain that, while there are many drivers for innovation, sustainability has become a topic of huge interest. “While interest is building in more sustainable products, buyers in the market have not yet driven the need for suppliers to provide more sustainable product solutions. In the private sector, distributors and agents are beginning to look for innovative products from manufacturers to better match sustainability requests from their end users.”

 

In many cases, an alternative solution for PPE products is already available on European markets. Sustainable clothing and equipment are something relatively new, and alternative solutions are being developed and evolving as the demand from the public and private sector is increasing. There are many examples of such innovation procurement solutions. For example, Denmark is looking at sustainable clothing for hospitals and public procurers in Belgium have written a guide for public purchasers to help them to source socially responsible work wear. As momentum grows in the area of circular and sustainable economies, the opportunities for manufacturers and suppliers to supply innovative solutions are growing.

 

Sourcing Sustainable PPE Suppliers

PTI undertook a number of research techniques to determine the best approach to source suppliers for the need identified by Irish buyers of PPE equipment. Mary explains that “we firstly held workshops to establish what the need and requirements were. I then conducted desk research on suppliers of PPE workwear in Ireland and attended supplier trade events.”

 

Mary outlines how the PTI researched recyclable options which can be applied to PPE at the end of its lifecycle. “Participants in the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project are keen to see improved product sustainability and performance. Through their search for a more sustainable solution, the public authority buyers hope to source products that will reduce carbon footprints in logistics and manufacturing. Furthermore, establishing a system which facilitates repair and recycling of products at the end of life and work towards a more sustainable solution. These measures will help to reduce waste and dependence on unsustainable resources.”

She explains that one challenge encountered was that the level of contamination at the end of life of some PPE products may not allow for them to be recycled, “however buyers are keen to understand all of the information available from the market and learn from the proposed solutions.” Mary details how she has encountered industries in the private sector who have shown great interest in recyclable PPE products.

Mary tells us that “the whole area of sustainability and circularity is a fascinating one. I developed a great understanding of these concepts and the challenges manufacturers face when developing a sustainable yet disposable product. My colleague in IDDEA, Rebecca Byrne, is an specialist in this area and her expertise was invaluable when facilitating workshop for public buyers.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Innovation procurement brokerage can provide increased opportunities for businesses to bid for tenders where they have solutions to public needs.
  2. Public authorities benefit from being connected with potential providers in the market and have access to new product innovations.
  3. By offering sustainable solutions to public problems, all stakeholders, including the environment, can experience value and success.

 

How to Learn More?

The Catalogue of Best Practices was published by the Innovation Procurement Brokers. This shows different approaches taken by partners and what was successful for them; very valuable learning for other buyers.

PTI promotes innovative solutions and is working to increase knowledge and skills in Innovation Procurement. PTI aims to improve competitiveness and the innovative mindset of Irish organisations in Europe. Please find more information here.

When ”I” is replaced by ”We”

As the Irish nation re-adjusts to life working at the kitchen table, it can be difficult to switch off after ‘’a day in the office’’.

The IDDEA team are lucky in one sense as we have been developing remote working skills over a period of time and working from home is part of our weekly routine. We have a good balance between visiting clients on site and working remotely. I would love to share our top tips for staying connected during these unprecedented times.

Top Tips:

Stay in contact: Zoom or Teams are great media platforms to connect with your colleagues. Iddea schedule a Team’s call every second day to check in with each other and we never leave without a smile on our face. It is great to connect on non-work-related topics and catch up on all the latest Netflix recommendations. If you are feeling demotivated, pick up the phone and contact one of your colleagues as it can be good to hear a friendly voice and its good to know that you are not alone during this isolation period.

Stay Active: Mary Ryan- IDDEA’s eAuction Coordinator aka our virtual fitness motivator has set up a great initiative to get the team moving. She has set up an online tracker whereby we list our weekly workouts. Whether it is the daily household chores or a 2km walk, everything counts and gets tracked. At the end of every month it is very rewarding to reflect on all the good work that you have done! Yoga is also a great way to start your working day and some Instagram handles that have come highly recommended by the Iddea team: ‘’yogawithmaura’’ and ‘’yogaandval’’ both accounts run free daily yoga classes from the comfort of your own home.

 

Come dine with me: You always have the smart (or lazy) ones who take advantage of a situation to create an opportunity. Working from home has its challenges for working moms so our CEO Ingrid proposed to her family to start a “come dine with me” competition where a rota was agreed that every day, everyone different in the household was going to show off their cooking skills. A balanced scorecard was set up to track the performance and criteria such as taste, texture, innovation and presentation were rated. So every few days, food recipes are being discussed on our zoom call and recipes have been shared. And she is happy to share that her youngest 15-year old daughter is showing amazing flavour combinations and is winning by a mile!

Party-Animals: The “Young ones” of our team have their own challenges with social distancing while keeping their social life active. Every time, the “Old ones” in the team are delighted to hear about what new social media game or virtual party was organised. Bingo Loco, which was Ireland’s, go to night out has now launched via Facebook live. Bingo Loco has the same concept as traditional bingo but with a modern twist. Stay tuned to their Facebook page for updates on their next virtual bingo party https://www.facebook.com/bingolocoie/ 

 

Meet the Fockers: We have been introducing our friends and families to one another via Zoom. In many circumstances we are away from our family during covid 19 therefore, we show photographs of our loved ones whom we miss dearly or family members that live in the household pop on the screen and give a wave. We are so close as a team and it is a nice to connect on both a personal and professional level.

Back to the Future: Making a list of future plans to offset somewhat the current feeling of loneliness, anxiety or the general feeling is a great mood-booster: when the “New Normal” starts, the top 3 things I will do is…..! Sharing the big and small things we look forward is very powerful and triggers a sense of hope, excitement and energy. The negative thoughts of cancelled holidays, festivals, foodie experience, city trips and family occasions, we turn in o future plans. Only the positive “what if” scenarios can be talked about and we all get excited about each other dreams. “The Return of Investment” of sharing each future plans is 2000:1 as that is where our hope and future self lies

Staying connected and staying true to yourself, we empower each other in good and hard times. There are 3 choices in life you can make: give in, give up or give it all you got! Finding a way together to give it all you got, will make you stronger. As they say, tough times never last, tough people do. Finding the “we “ in “I” is what we are trying to do at IDDEA. We hope some of top tips of our remote working experience, might work for you. Be well, stay safe, keep close and mind each other.