Millennials + Procurement
These days very few people love what they do for work. Luckily, for me, that’s not necessarily true. In fact, it’s scary how often I say the words ‘I Love Procurement’. It has confused many but intrigued a few people too, like Dana Small.
Dana and I met virtually through a close friend in the industry, then ran into each other at the 2019 SPARK Conference, where we spent two full days geeking out on the future of procurement. Dana asked me what opportunities that I see for the future of procurement and encouraged me to write about it.
Here I want to lay the framework for why millennials like me, dare I say, LOVE procurement. Followed by how I see procurement transforming as the function begins to attract more attention by both organization’s leadership and hot talent in the industry.
Dynamics of Procurement
One of my favorite things about procurement is that so many of the people who work in this function did not study supply chain or procurement. This seems to be especially true in the indirect procurement spaces where I’ve spent most of my career.
This is why you can see that the people you work within procurement are dynamic. This is important to me because I, like many millennials, love working with people who have different backgrounds.
In procurement, you’re constantly faced with different challenges or problems to solve. It can be as basic as needing to find a supplier to perform services for your company, or as complex as having to manage a supplier who is underperforming and delivering low service quality. BOTH ARE SO MUCH FUN!
My opinion is that the ‘millennial mindset’ approaches both of these situations differently, and because of that, we produce new or different results.
For example, sourcing for suppliers is one of the most fundamental responsibilities within procurement. Sure we can use our systems and databases to search through market intelligence to find suppliers who are known to provide a certain type of services. But what I find to be more interesting is that the millennial mindset doesn’t necessarily focus on what has always been done.
Instead, we look more broadly or objectively at business requirements in order to think of ways to design the solution. How can we bring new players to the table, or engage suppliers who would be a non-traditional or non-obvious choice? How can we upskill suppliers who are successful in other areas of our business and have the potential and interest in developing new capabilities using the transferability of their existing capabilities?
Ultimately I think it comes down to creativity. Procurement is one of the most dynamic and variable functions in business. No day is the same and there is always more than one way to solve a problem. We have so much opportunity to be creative.
If this creativity is fostered and encouraged in the right environment, procurement professionals will feel empowered to do things differently.
Guest Author: Victoria Vitale
Enabling Creative Thinking
I don’t think that creative thinking is necessarily unique to the millennial generation. But I do think our experiences and exposure to things, like growing up amidst the rapid evolution of technology, change the output of our creative thinking. Regardless, any generation is creative so I don’t think that we need to train or teach people how to be creative.
We certainly need to encourage it and be open to creativity. In order to do that, I believe we need to focus on automating all of the transactional, low value add activities that so many of us are consumed by each day. The manual activities that eat up so much of our time that it makes it hard to be creative or do things outside of the traditional mold.
What do I think this looks like? Well to start, let’s stop fighting the tide with our business partners. Sometimes they don’t want to work with procurement because they think we slow down their process and that we don’t add value. Sometimes they’re right. How can we automate repeat buying (even for services!) so that our business partners don’t have to engage procurement for duplicative purchases?
Let’s take a second and think about different industries for inspiration. You know what my favorite part of grocery shopping is… self-checkout. How can we empower our business partners to manage their own buying or purchasing when the value of procurement’s involvement is low?
Technology, including robotic automation and machine learning, in a transparent and integrated buying (procurement) ecosystem is a future of procurement that I dream of. Let’s design a process that enables the business to self-serve when risk is low, and at the same time give our business partners transparency to why they should work with procurement when risk is high. The most valuable part of all of this will likely be the backend data that will be available once an ecosystem like this is implemented.
What’s Not to Love
By now I hope that any non-procurement millennials (and any other generation for that matter) are wondering how they can start a career in procurement. The appeal isn’t just the dynamic nature of the work and the incredible people you’ll be surrounded by, but also the opportunity to move a function forward that is ready to evolve.
Creating the ecosystem I described above isn’t easy, for any functional area. Procurement is ripe and ready for this evolution and leaders are starting to stand behind the need for a more mature procurement function. With many procurement organizations securing new executive sponsorship, we must seize this opportunity to create the future of procurement that many of us who love procurement have only dreamt of until now.
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