It’s a common saying in the procurement industry: “What procurement heads want most from their staff is interpersonal skills”. But is this just an unhelpful cliché? To find out, Procurement Leaders recently launched the Leadership in Procurement report, a piece of research that projects what is expected of procurement leaders and the modern procurement function. In the report, strategic thinking, commercial awareness, and leadership skills came up as the biggest skills gaps that the procurement industry is facing today. These are not technical skills, but all soft interpersonal skills. In fact, according to many procurement professionals, the largest leadership skill gaps lie in being a visionary, the ability to build a team culture, communication, and openness to change.
It appears that the industry has been focusing too much on developing technical skills such as negotiation, spend analysis, and contract management, but have not invested enough in the people element of it. We often forget that a large portion of the procurement process lies in the ability to persuade, challenge, and influence for the better of the business. For that to be effective, procurement departments need to build confidence to communicate and engage with other parts of the business.
Procurement personnel need to take input and go out to the marketplace to sell their company and excite the suppliers. Procurement has to get ideas from the suppliers to sell back to their own marketing team – putting them in an internal consultancy and salesperson role, where Procurement personnel need to be dynamic and always up to date on the latest technologies.
With the new criteria needed for procurement skills shifting, below are the skill sets that Procurement personnel need to be very good at in order of priority:
1) Relationship Management
The ability to leverage interpersonal skills to establish rapport and develop relationships with all key stakeholders, suppliers, customers, & colleagues.
2) Negotiation Skills
The ability to persuade, influence, and explore positions and alternatives to reach outcomes that will gain acceptance of all parties and will also meet the organization’s strategic procurement objectives.
The ability to think carefully about the likely effects on others of words, actions, appearance, and mode of behavior. The consummate professional selects the words and actions most likely to have the desired effect on the group or individual in question.
4) Results Focused
The ability and drive for achieving and surpassing targets against internal or external standards of excellence. This is about showing a passion for improving the delivery of services with a commitment to continuous improvement in your procurement process.
5) Technology Aptitude
The ability to apply and improve in-depth specialized knowledge, skills, and judgment by assessing and translating information technology into responsive and effective procurement solutions.
6) Financial Acumen
The ability to apply a broad understanding of financial management principles and other quantitative information to ensure decisions are fiscally responsible and based on the procurement budget.
7) Strategic Industry Management
Establishing long-range business plans which can anticipate the global market. This is particularly important for commodity procurement.
8) Category Management
Categorizing the spending according to specific goods or services (direct and indirect) and keeping in mind quality, service, risk and cost.
9) Project Management
Driving the procurement process by designing, implementing and managing projects to a successful conclusion. Establishing accountability, establishing timelines and establishing goals are paramount.
10) Analytical Skills
The ability to articulate and solve both complex and uncomplicated problems and concepts and make decisions that make sense based on all available information. Particularly important in the selection of vendors.