What Makes a Great Procurement Team?

Written by Neal Mankey on Feb 05, 2018

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As a Procurement Practice Consultant at EO Executives, I am always keen to hear from great industry leaders. These conversations are often around the latest market trends, or updates on how my contacts are progressing in their assignments.

One thing that is clear, is that with continuous changes in economic climates, think Brexit, comes a demand for procurement teams to have more advanced skill sets, gravitas and elasticity to overcome the challenges they ultimately face.

To uncover this further and hear first-hand an experts opinion, I asked Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) Matt Stallard- What makes a great procurement team?

Matt has is an accomplished and highly effective senior executive with extensive experience in leading procurement transformation, change and integration programmes for large FTSE organisations. After successfully integrating the procurement function of his last company following three large corporate acquisitions, Matt went on to lead the strategic procurement and category management of all Global In-directs, for one of the largest Business Services organisations in Europe; as well as the direct procurement of key service lines for past and present client organisations such as Siemens, British Gas, HSBC, Sainsbury’s, BAA, BT, Virgin Media, Reuters, Axa, Nationwide, RBS and the Ministry Of Defence.

View Matts profile, here.

Matt: I’ve had the privilege of working with some outstanding procurement people and building some great teams in my career, but this is the first time I’ve been asked to pause and reflect on what it takes to establish a great procurement team.

Matt Stallard.jpgMatt, having worked in Procurement teams for numerous corporate organisations, what would your top tips be for establishing a strong Procurement function?

Well, I don’t know it all, far from it, I’m still learning too.

But here are my big-ticket items:

  • VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE – I’m not talking about race, gender, religion or demographics, suffice to say I think diversity in these areas is an absolute basic “must have” for any successful team. What I’m advocating here is for procurement leaders to cast a much broader recruitment net outside of their sectors, shake things up! You’re not as different as you think!
  • We bought critical engineering services with a team where one used to buy tuna fish, another bought aircraft engines, another cardio-vascular drugs and another crude oil. They were all highly competent procurement people with drive, enthusiasm and passion. They loved the variety and were very successful. More often than not there are technical people in your business to participate in sourcing groups alongside the buyers. I’m personally a great believer that a successful buyer in one sector, with the right attitude, can be a successful buyer in another (although my wife often clarifies that I would be useless as a fashion buyer, which I tend to agree with – he says, looking down at his sketchers).
  • SKIN IN THE GAME – Set the vision and create the buzz as a leader but bring everyone in to play their part in defining the strategic direction of the team. Get everyone involved! You then create a currency and a level of commitment that you just can’t buy.
  • RISE TO THE CHALLENGE – It’s obvious that you need to have a structured development process, invest in training and implement well-defined role competencies and it’s obvious that you should stretch and challenge your top performers, but don’t overlook the others. The “steady Eddies and Edwinas” (as my old boss used to call them) are as critical as anyone else in the team and most want to do more, be involved and be responsible for something meaningful. Professional Development is everyone’s right to have. A truly great team sees everyone valued and playing their part.
  • BREAK NEW GROUND – Try to create an open-door culture and a safe environment to come up with wild ideas and innovative thinking. That’s a softly-softly tip no doubt you’ve heard before but let’s look at it another way, I’ll always remember the phrase – “when two people always agree, one of them isn’t necessary!”. Maybe not be that extreme but sometimes you’ll need to “listen to the other one, the quiet one or the junior one” and facilitate equality in innovation.
  • A TOKEN OF GRATITUDE – Let’s take it as a given that your company’s reward structure needs to be comparable to the market in which you operate. We know that’s a basic. What’s more important is how you recognise effort as well as success, how people feel when you thank them. Also, don’t put off the team days and nights out when the pressure’s on, this is often the most valuable time to get together.
  • SUCCESSION IS SUCCESS – Recruit graduates even if you don’t have a budget or a role, something always comes up. Reducing graduate recruitment is like canceling your life insurance, it will catch up with you in the end. And always have a first line team with at least 2 people in it who could stretch to do your job if you left tomorrow, it’s an opportunity not a threat.

Just a few of the first things that came into my head!

I was originally asked to write a blog about what makes a successful CPO. But frankly I’m not qualified to answer that question, the only people who can really judge if I’ve done a decent job so far are the people who’ve worked in my teams. So, I’ve focused on the practical aspects of what I feel makes a great team rather than a text book script on what makes a good leader. And if I have done my job properly they’ll be nodding their heads at reading this rather than sending me a bunch of sarcastic e-mails.

What next?

Now we ask you- what makes a great Procurement team? We would love to hear your thoughts, so do leave a comment below. 

Alternatively, if you are looking to establish a strong Procurement function, please feel free to get in contact directly: neal.mankey@eoexecutives.com and I will be happy to offer some advice on sourcing the best leaders for your organisation.

In the meantime…

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