Why work in Procurement?
Procurement has not always been viewed as an attractive career choice. Chasing down rogue spenders or trying to negotiate lower prices with suppliers is often what people picture when they think of a procurement career.
However, in reality, a career in procurement is much more than that. Procurement is now starting to gain a reputation as a major contributor to company growth, with a responsibility for optimizing costs and reporting on savings. There is a lot of potential for people already in or thinking of moving into the sector.
With salaries comparable to other sectors such as marketing, IT, and HR along with early exposure to senior-level stakeholders, a proactive approach from the outset could lead to a long and successful procurement career.
Steps to Achieving a Successful Career in Procurement
Develop your Skill Set
Procurement can remain a largely administrative role, but if you have ambitions to move up the ladder within procurement, you should focus on developing your skillset.
What skills do you need for procurement?
As mentioned already, not many other roles offer the opportunity to interact with senior-level stakeholders and external stakeholders so frequently and at such an early stage. With that brings a need to learn how to communicate with and lead others if you want to progress. Seek feedback from your own manager and your peers to gain a sense of self-awareness and develop appropriately in these areas.
Data is also becoming increasingly important within procurement. Modern procurement teams rely on data to help their risk management, supplier compliance, and gain insights into their spending patterns. We discussed the impact of data on procurement in one of our blogs.
Given how important data has become, you should challenge yourself to become comfortable with it as soon as possible for the benefit of your career in procurement.
A career in procurement involves dealing with various different parties. Being a good collaborator is key to the role and can be extremely beneficial to your progress.
By collaborating with different departments, you will gain insights into their spending patterns. From this, you may be able to offer cost-effective insights, such as the benefits of departments using the same supplier. While enabling you to become a more strategic procurement professional, such collaboration also helps to build bridges across the organization.
Also, webinars and industry events can be good places to collaborate with both procurement professionals and suppliers. Such events allow you to experience best practices within the industry, build connections at various levels within your field of work, and also get involved in topical discussions to stay up to date with the latest trends.
Find a Mentor
Learning how to get into procurement is just a start. If you have ambitions to climb the ladder within your career in procurement, you should look to learn from those who have climbed the ladder before you. A mentor will be able to advise you on the skills needed for things such as stakeholder engagement and strategic procurement, for example.
You should not necessarily limit yourself to one mentor, though. You may come across an ideal mentor both within your own organization and through networking at industry events.
You should, however, consider certain things before approaching a potential mentor:
- identify where you want to get to
- define the values you would like your mentor to have
- find a mentor at the level you want to reach
Also, when learning from a mentor, it’s important to remember that one day you could be in their shoes. Take note of how they treated you, and be prepared to pass on their knowledge and skills one day.
As you progress through your career in procurement, your perception of success will change, as will your responsibilities. However, there are certain things that you should focus on in order to be the best senior procurement professional that you can be.
Maintain an Understanding
With progress in your career comes a change of focus. This can sometimes result in senior professionals losing touch with the fundamentals of the sector in which they work.
With procurement, however, due to the increased demand for procurement professionals, a high level of experience and skills is expected from people in senior positions. This means that it is particularly important to maintain a high level of understanding as you progress through your career in procurement. You don’t want to find yourself caught out in an embarrassing situation.
Make sure you keep up to date with the latest procurement trends and technologies. Attend the occasional industry talk, take part in training sessions to learn new skills or refresh your memory and maintain somewhat of a ‘hands-on’ approach in order to keep up to date with the operations of your procurement function.
As you progress, it’s important to remember the advice and support that you sought earlier in your career in procurement and the people you thought of as good leaders. Try to mirror their approach and establish and maintain a happy medium between being ‘invisible’ and being too ‘hands-on.’ This is important to ensure your staff feel both valued and comfortable in their roles.
Additionally, as you move up the ranks, open lines of communication with your CFO will become critical in ensuring the success of your procurement team. We talked about the ways in which CPO and CFO relations can fuel strategic procurement in one of our blogs.
CFOs need to regularly communicate business finances to the CPO so that procurement understands its position in driving the business forward. Likewise, CFOs need to be made aware of any roadblocks or issues for procurement in order to establish adequate levels of support and investment.
Focus on Talent Development
As mentioned, developing a skill set to suit modern day procurement is paramount when it comes to forging a successful career in procurement. Data management and analytical skills, in particular, are growing in importance.
However, according to the Deloitte Global 2021 Chief Procurement Officer Survey 36% of CPOs find it harder to recruit the right talent and 33% consider digital and soft skills as their procurement team’s biggest skill gaps.
Survey findings also indicate that high performing procurement teams invest in agility. Full-time hires will remain the main source of talent acquisition, but CPOs are exploring other talent models. Using a flexible, hybrid workforce can help develop talent and access capabilities, knowledge, and experience.
About a fifth of CFOs still consider traditional outsourcing through BPOs, but high performers highly favor internal agile workforce deployment (i.e. using existing workforce, staff from within business unit procurement, corporate procurement, other functions, and/or external support services).
As a senior procurement professional, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have a workforce skilled and equipped to deliver against business goals.
A close working relationship with your CFO will be important here as you plan ways to develop your workforce. Outsourcing of certain administrative tasks may be required in order to allow your workforce time to focus on more valuable, strategic roles. Nominate staff for training courses and give them as much access as possible to senior decision makers, which will help develop communication skills and boost morale.
A career in procurement has the potential to be a long and rewarding one if approached in a proactive way. With procurement now seen as a major contributor to company growth, it’s no longer simply a bridge to somewhere else. Focus on developing your skillset and collaborating with others, and you will be well positioned to climb the procurement ladder. Just remember what you learned on the way up when you reach the top.