Harsh Bhatia is an IT Group Buyer at Balfour Beatty.
For the latest of Procurement Heads‘ Futureheads series, Harsh spoke to Dan Goodson about his procurement career journey.
Can you tell us a bit about your role at Balfour Beatty?
I am an IT Buyer and procure software and hardware.
I am responsible for the purchasing activities of Balfour Beatty on a large scale worth millions of pounds and have to make important decisions on what to recommend to our internal stakeholders and CIO.
My role also involves ad-hoc IT renewals and managing this process.
You’ve previously worked on the supply chain side of retail, how much of a shift was it to procuring IT for a leading infrastructure company?
Both infrastructure and retail are fast-paced industries.
Having said that supply chain was more so about the movement of goods ensuring that retail stores had sufficient stock to meet customer demand.
Procurement is more about contract management and negotiating great commercials for your business.
The roles were different in nature as one involved closely managing warehouse colleagues whereas IT procurement is more office-based and strategic.
IT procurement provides a lot more visibility to senior stakeholders within the business.
The transition was smooth because soft skills are required for both as is people management – these are transferrable across industries.
Having said that, doing shift work at a warehouse wasn’t easy!
Was a career in procurement the ultimate goal when you were studying for your economics degree at Royal Holloway?
No, I fell into supply chain and procurement!
At university, I had no idea what I wanted to do but once I started in supply chain I quickly realised that I wanted to be more involved with countries of origin for the goods I could see day in, and day out.
So I looked into this and my closest match was procurement!
I quickly became obsessed with labour standards and costs associated with manufacturing abroad.
I enjoy negotiating so that is also a bonus.
Clearly, professional development is really important to you, and you’re currently studying your CIPS Level 5, having achieved your Level 4.
How valuable is the CIPS qualification, and why would you encourage other professionals to undertake the qualification?
CIPS is valuable because it allows you to apply your theory to the real world.
Both on-the-job skills and book knowledge complement one another.
Through studying CIPS you also have the opportunity to expand your wider network which is key.
I would recommend others to do CIPS because you become a well-rounded procurement professional and it is great for your CV.
You’ve also achieved a Certificate of Negotiation Practice for the Negotiation Club, what did that involve?
Negotiation is a hobby for me.
It involved a Zoom Call with the host of TNC along with other cohorts.
We practised timed negotiation and this also involved multi-variables such as budget, payment terms etc.
Not only was this fun but it boosted my skills in this area.
I am proud to have got a certificate from this course as I learnt the importance of observing and note-taking and discovered powerful tactics such as silence!
Where would you like your career to take you professionally speaking?
I want to achieve MCIPS in the next two years.
I am still on the fence about specialising in IT or becoming more of a generalist.
Procurement at Premier League Football Clubs is an area that I find fascinating!
What I do know is that I want to be in a role where I am a trusted advisor and make strategic decisions for a business.
I want to be a leader who inspires others.
The good thing about my current role is that every industry requires indirect procurement (sports, banking, retail, construction etc.).
And what advice would you give someone setting out on a procurement or supply chain career?
Make sure you do it because you enjoy it!
Network as much as you can and learn to be a good listener.
Procurement is a skill that can be taught but soft skills cannot be taught as easily.
I also recommend reading the Supply Chain Insider Magazine to become more commercially aware.