The following is an opinion article written by Ajith Gopinath, Mondelēz Asia Middle East Africa procurement lead for manufacturing, supply chain and infrastructure investments.
It's time to reinvigorate the debate on whether procurement deserves a seat at the C-suite table.
The debate is an old one for many companies. But the pandemic created a tailor-made opportunity for procurement officials to make a newly compelling argument.
The case is clear: In a rapidly changing landscape, procurement will have a significantly bigger role to play in driving growth and profitability for businesses. Giving procurement a seat at the C-suite table can help minimize shocks, increase predictability and make companies more nimble.
So, how do you convince a C-suite executive? Here are some tips.
Know what procurement can bring to the table
When preparing to make the case, consider the value procurement can bring to the table.
Here's a few examples:
- Long-term Supply Assurance: Procurement will facilitate the sharing of information and visibility with external partners within a suitable commercial and relationship framework that assures long-term supply security while retaining significant leverage.
- Supply Risk Mitigation: The key to mitigating a risk is to identify and understand it first. Procurement will play a key role in engaging direct supply partners to map the upstream multi-tiers of supply, corresponding risks (geopolitical, environmental, extreme weather) and mitigation strategies.
- Cost and Inflation Management: Procurement is equipped to obtain robust market intelligence and validate it via multiple channels before funneling it through the organization. Negotiation skills that combine data and analytics with creativity and enterprise will be an asset in a future where low hanging fruits will be a rarity.
- Ensuring Compliance: Procurement is the primary custodian of policy and process compliance which, at times, can be counterproductive to availing certain short-term opportunities but critical to managing reputational risks in the longer term
Procurement professionals have a well-developed set of supplier relationships, network connections and information channels that they can readily tap. As a result, they have built up a repository of commercial and market knowledge that results in a built-to-suit sourcing strategy when connected to internal business needs. Don't forget to leverage that.
Prove procurement’s value
Since the pandemic, top-to-top engagements between customers and suppliers have become more frequent and intense than ever before. Such engagements, which are critical to business continuity, are also an excellent opportunity to prove procurement's value to the company.
Remember: Procurement professionals play a critical and lead role in guiding conversations towards a win-win for both parties. If executed well, these are the key moments that trigger a rethinking of the role of procurement in the minds of senior leaders.
Here are a few other ways procurement leaders can make inroads with their CEO
- Be assertive: Over a period of time, procurement professionals acquire a mix of technical, commercial, supply chain and relationship management skills that enable them to view a situation from multiple angles and come up with unique perspectives and solutions. Procurement leaders need to express themselves freely more often and also encourage their teams to do so.
- Build skill set diversity: Building multi-faceted teams would expand the influence of procurement across the organization. In areas like indirect sourcing, subject matter expertise determines the level of engagement with stakeholders. For marketing and sales, there is a school of thought that prefers hiring candidates from the supplier side with the assumption that sourcing skills can be acquired over a period of time.
- Know the full supply chain: Procurement professionals with an understanding of end-to-end supply chain become more valuable due to their ability to connect many dots, make required trade-offs and arrive at net positive decisions for the organization.
- Encourage lifelong learning: Procurement leaders need to overemphasize the importance of learning on an ongoing, voluntary and premeditated basis with their teams. Every member should have a learning plan (conferences, trade fairs, supplier visits, subscriptions) with corresponding budgets to pursue it.
The jury is still out on whether procurement is firmly on its way to the “big leagues.” But there’s never been a better time for this pivotal role to take center stage.