The Procurement Manager: what skills to stand out?

Last November Richmond Italia held the Procurement Manager Forum at Grand Hotel of Rimini. Claudia Paoletti, Managing Partner of Kilpatrick, was invited to lecture several groups of Procurement Managers attending the event.

During her speech, she highlighted that the role of Procurement Manager has dramatically changed in recent years and the change is still under way. The changes occurred have required procurement professionals to improve their competence standards and to gain expertise in fields they had not been fully focused on before.

Years ago, even by the standards of leading companies, being a Strategic Procurement Manager often simply meant being a good negotiator and contract manager.

Now the scenario is completely different. Today’s procurement professionals are aware they need a full range of skills to do their job successfully, besides being perfectly in the know of procurement processes and negotiation which is the cornerstone of their profession. On the other hand, today’s vast competencies imply being outstanding in terms of risk management, making the most of the technological devices available, having the ability to carry out sophisticated analyses, partnering with suppliers, seeking procurement sources on a global scale, putting in place the best project management practice and so on.
What skills does a Manager need to be successful in a world which has shifted from complicated to complex?

Adaptive Speed: we live in a world where, not only can we no longer predict the rules of the game, there is need for great flexibility and the ability to lead the team as you go;

Cross-culture and Social Attitude: we live in a society where it is important valuing and enhancing diversity. More and more often managers head multi-cultural teams and interface with a variety of professionals. Unless they open to new scenarios and show to appreciate cultural differences, they cannot keep up with modern times;

Ethics and Responsibility: Managers, and even more procurement managers, are to set a model for their collaborators. The theme of Reputation is becoming growingly crucial and is a yardstick against which assessing both people and organizations;

Organized Empathy: the remote management of human resources alongside digital-enabled relations is becoming increasingly established. It is paramount fostering empathy and understanding some specific dynamics even failing a face-to-face interaction with the conversation partner. Most likely, 80% of the times negotiations, meetings, job interviews and even private life moments take place via digital devices. It is mandatory having the ability to make the most of the device and handle the conversation at its best to effectively liaise with our touchpoints from remote;

Critical thinking: it is fundamental having the capability to receive, analyze and decode data while checking the sources and keeping an independent thinking. While today we live in a world where data underlie every kind of strategy and decision, it is more and more important using data in the right way while verifying their truthfulness upfront;

Digitalization: there is growing talk about the Digital Transformation under way in businesses and the overall impact it has on procurement, be it direct or indirect, as well as the relationship with vendors. The procurement manager plays a crucial role in the implementation of digital transformation to such an extent that the talk today is about procurement 4.0. To be successful, players need to implement smart digital procurement strategies. Digital technology can help procurement enhance collaboration, analysis and engagement by using a portfolio of tools for the entire chain from planning, procurement, contracts management, order delivery, payment control and vendor management. On the other hand, Digital Transformation is closely related to technological innovation, and prior to its implementation, a new cultural approach is needed to change the mindset of Managers and having impact on the organizational structure and business strategies. It is thus necessary developing a“digital attitude” while steering vision towards innovation and sharing of knowledge. Experimenting and encouraging collaborators to follow suit while acting as facilitators for the sake of the corporate transformation process;

Economics: although the role of the Procurement Manager has always inherently revolved around figures, it is advisable they should approach their role more and more strategically, speak the language of the Management Team and understand the company’s macro design. They are to understand that their work contributes to the global performance of the organization and to the impact on EBITDA;

Innovation: it is growingly important understanding what is crucial inside the organization, while assessing and implementing new, improved practices from outside. The interaction with other industries and professionals together with an open-minded attitude to other cultures is the must-have condition for change to take place. It is paramount boosting know-how and staying focused on every new input while making the most of intelligence and common sense to identify in what way the practice in place in other contexts can be adapted to one’s own organization;

Managing Millennials: at the current state of things, all the Managers deal or interact with young colleagues born between 1980 and 1995. This generation has specific needs that Managers cannot afford to underestimate if they do not want those resources to leave the company and, also, they are to create a positive working environment for both. What we do not value as relevant, is crucial for them: socialization, digital environment, flexibility, straightforward communication, need to have a personal Mentor, be acknowledged for their achievements, understand how their presence and work impact the business, work-life balance and the importance of themes such as social responsibility. Let alone the fact they are not used to making any sacrifice to achieve their goals as they are tuned with having it all and right now. Unless we stop and try to understand this generation’s approach to the professional world, you can bet it will not be a successful case history!