The Humanisation of Procurement

In the last few months, I’ve met some seriously impressive procurement leaders; professionals at the top of their game – people with a unique and highly-specialised set of skills.

I’ve visited a plethora of interesting, yet disparate businesses, from world-leading technology disruptors to globally recognised, long-standing brands.

Within these corporations are those who source, negotiate and strategically select goods and services to the end of fundamentally creating a competitive advantage for their respective organisations.

They are invaluable.

But in the original words of American humourist and writer, Seba Smith, “There are more ways than one to skin a cat,” and so, there are more ways than one of obtaining or procuring something.

I’ve identified two dominant personality archetypes within the procurement space: the trained negotiator and the relationship builder. Both dispositions absolutely have the ability to get the job done, but they do it in very different ways.

The trained negotiator

The trained negotiator is a bit like Spock from Star Trek. Although Spock was half-human, his other half was Vulcan, and it was the latter half which gave him his extremely analytical viewpoint, helping him advise his Captain, James T. Kirk.

His personality was aligned not only towards pragmatism, logic, objectivity, science and analysis, but also with integrity, loyalty, honesty and dependability, and it was a combination of those assets which enabled him to get the job done. In short, Spock is a good problem-solver for a large, bureaucratic company.

Data-driven and possessing high intellect, the Procurement leaders I’ve met who fall into this category are daunting and impressive but don’t always build collaborative relationships.

The relationship builder

The relationship builder is more like Captain Kirk.

Charismatic, moral and headstrong, Kirk is brave enough to save a planet under attack and charming enough to woo everyone there afterwards. Sometimes stubborn, Kirk is known to take matters into his own hands, working with agility, passion and pace, but always winning hearts and minds while doing so.

Kirk gets the job done but his emotional intelligence leaves a lasting impression on those he interacts with. The relationship builders aren’t just there to do a deal and focus on the short term; like Kirk with his crew, the relationship builders are interested in building lasting relationships with their stakeholders and suppliers, knowing they can count on them when it really matters.

The procurement landscape is always changing and evolving. But despite advancements in technology, every single procurement leader I’ve met recently has emphasised the importance of the job’s softer skills, perhaps now more than ever.

Today, the conventional view of procurement as an administrative, back-office function seems archaic; Procurement needs to strategically drive business success, becoming more commercial and less transactional. The science of Procurement will always be important but building meaningful relationships with stakeholders and inspiring confidence is paramount – and businesses are crying out for those that can do it.

James Dobbin is Procurement Heads‘ Director of Financial & Professional Services.

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