A decade ago, the first ProcureCon Indirect Conference convened with the goal of bringing together industry leaders on the leading edge of shaping the role of the procurement department.
The role has developed on a long arc, bending towards greater strategic influence within the ranks of business leadership and influenced along the way by breakthrough technology. This year, rather than looking back, ProcureCon is pushing forward. Featuring a future-facing agenda set by Executive Director Frank Musero, the 2017 event will highlight the progress that procurement has already made, while focusing on new opportunities as well as the strategic level planning procurement can put in place to move the envelope in terms of influence and delivered value.
Thanks in large part to the development of technology that provides more visibility into organization-wide patterns of spending, as well as automation of the most routine purchasing activities, CPOs have been granted the opportunity to transcend the roles they had 10 years ago and enter a period of expanding influence within the C-suite and among their key stakeholders. Their insights into how a business is spending money, and how that spending can be optimized as opposed to simply reduced, are rightly seen as attributes that should be at the table when planning for long-term strategy. Now that procurement has won the ear of the most influential members of their business leadership team, it’s the perfect time to lay the groundwork for what’s to come. Depending on the organization, that next step may differ in scale; however the preparation looks the same across a wide range of businesses. In order to meet the needs of a global organization, or to master a local or regional environment, procurement leaders are customizing the structures of their departments, learning to source a broadening range of specialty categories, and employing an arsenal of technologies that provide more dynamic views of where value is being created.
As the sun rises on March 6 over the Omni Championsgate Resort in Orlando next year, what’s to come next for procurement will be first on the agenda. Now more than ever, having a road map for the next four years is crucially important. Procurement leaders should expect disruption and put themselves in a position to benefit from what’s shaping up to be a moment in time stirred by the forces of rapid technology development and the tectonic motions of global markets. With changing international dynamics, fluctuations in everything from the value of energy to relationships between nations can have an effect on prices, which is why one of the main goals of procurement in the near term is to build flexibility into their strategies. For many, this means striking the right balance between a centrally controlled department, where the CPO can take the reigns of global strategy and develop consultative relationships with leaders from other departments, and providing flexibility for situations that defy a consolidated approach. The lines between a centralized structure and a center-led model are becoming increasingly blurred. Thankfully, a more strategic CPO role can serve as the wellspring of strategy that can be carried out on a localized level, preserving the best features of both styles of organizational structure.
One of the keys for future success that will be discussed is the question of talent. The procurement organization has long prized certain analytical skillsets, which will continue to be important. However, as the role of the organization moves to occupy a more strategic space, there’s a corresponding need for persuasive communicators to convey the value that the department is building in to the business. As procurement takes on challenging sourcing roles within categories like travel and marketing, where the stakeholders they will be working with may have been used to a relatively free hand in controlling their own spending decisions, communication will take on a major importance, lest procurement be viewed as combative, rather than consultative. It’s more and more common for department leadership to keep their ears to the ground, seeking entries to the procurement sphere who bring specialty category knowledge with them that can serve as particularly effective liaisons to groups with a taste for relative autonomy.
While procurement seeks to refine the skillsets of those within its ranks, they must also acknowledge that much of the strategic transformation that their department has undergone can be traced to significant breakthroughs in technology, which have allowed them to focus on an elevated role. To effectively maintain the strategic positions they have fought for, procurement leaders now have a major stake in staying up-to-date with their technology. In environments where the department has made strides in their relationships to the business, it’s now time to take stock of the tools that have gotten them to where they are. Procurement needs to identify how they can continue to impress in environments where “the basics” have long ago been put into place and expectations are high for continued delivery of value.
What’s emerging in 2017, and the agenda for the next ProcureCon Indirect East, is a procurement landscape that is at a crossroads. More mature groups are finding themselves victors in the battle to become strategically focused and now are turning their attention to what comes next. Others are following in their footsteps or using innovative solutions to leapfrog to the head of the pack. Regardless of where they have been, all procurement practitioners are facing a more uncertain world in the immediate future, challenging any idea that leaders can rest on the laurels they have earned over the last decade of transformation. Be there in Orlando on March 6, 2017 as ProcureCon Indirect East convenes to see where the true innovators in procurement are aiming their next big moves. It’s an exciting, if uncertain time, and the perfect year to raise a voice in defining your role’s continued evolution.