What does procurement agility mean in 2017?

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Gordon Donovan, procurement and supply chain manager, discusses the term ‘procurement agility’, and the ways in which procurement organisations can become more agile in their activities. In this month’s SmartProcurement he gives some practical takeaways for procurement professionals to consider when applying in their own environments. 

In various reports and papers published over the last few years the phrase “procurement must be agile”, appears on a constant basis. Indeed, there is even a regular publication called ‘The Agility Agenda’. It is an excellent read and well worth subscribing to.

When considering procurement agility, we need to consider internal and external environments for the two main themes that are emerging in 2017.

Procurement talent

With the release of the recent Deloitte CPO Survey, attention has once again fallen on talent, and the acquisition, developing and retaining of it. According to the report over 60 per cent of CPOs feel that their teams do not have the skills needed to perform their roles. What is also interesting in noting that the report suggests that these CPOs are not looking to change their teams, but to develop them.

The report states that training budgets have largely stagnated, if not fallen. So how can CPOs develop their teams without a large training budget?

The answer could be an agile programme that blends the theories and methods of procurement with an increase in workplace based development. These programmes, sometimes called Active Learning Programmes, are a mix of short classroom based sessions, which are then immediately applied back in the workplace. When those skills have been applied, it is time to move to the next set of skills.

These activities are supplemented with desktop video learning. Again, the importance is on the quick application back in the workplace. The idea here is to utilise more of the 70-20-10 learning methodology. Writers such as Tough (1979) and Kajewski and Masden (2012) have argued that the majority of adult learning (about 70 per cent) takes place outside institutional frameworks, while 20 per cent is supported by those who are not professional helpers, such as supervisors, colleagues, parents and friends. Professional helpers, such as teachers, trainers and counsellors, account for only 10 per cent.

For example:

70 per cent – informal, on the job, experience based, stretch projects and practice

20 per cent – coaching, mentoring, developing through others

10 per cent – formal learning interventions and structured courses

The application of this theory into development platforms has gained momentum in recent years, and this has impacted how people put together formal programmes. For example, according to Kajewski and Masden (2012), an Australian firm has 70 per cent of learning as experience on the job to integrate, practice and master new skills, knowledge or changes in behaviour.

20 per cent of learning is from exposure to others, such as learning through the observation of others (mentors, coaches), and reflection on the impact of this behaviour on one’s own practice. Just 10 per cent of learning is from formal programmes designed for the acquisition of knowledge or skills through carefully programmed instruction.

Alternatively, an Australian public sector programme has been set out in a more simplistic way, in that 70 per cent of learning is experiential, 20 per cent of learning is relationship based and 10 per cent of learning is formal.

What is clear is that despite the differences in application the methodology allows multiple ways for practitioners to develop their skills as opposed to formal training alone.

Responsiveness

One of the constant gripes about procurement is the time it takes to “get things done”. Procurement therefore needs to be agile in responding to its stakeholders, both internally and externally.

The fundamentals of ‘Just-in-Time’ suggest a review of the non-value and value-adding activities as a means of eliminating waste. If we apply this to our process and procedures, we may find that the need to ask the same question multiple times adds to the turnaround time in procurement, and frustrates suppliers.

Many procurement organisations decide, for a number of reasons that they need to deal with a set of suppliers who have already passed the hurdle required to supply to an organisation. This could be supply chain transparency, insurance requirements, past history. The ‘barriers’ are yours to set.

Pre-qualification allows these questions to be answered once, and also will allow procurement to have pass/fail rates for areas such as supply chain transparency and accreditation. Ultimately this will also help to develop better relationships with those critical suppliers, to reduce lead times, allow for innovation, and allow procurement to focus on other value adding activities.

When considering the matter of procurement agility, it is imperative to understand the multiple ways we can be agile in meeting the changing needs of our organisations. From building better teams, equipped with the skills and knowledge our organisations require for the future, to ensuring that the suppliers we work with can help meet the objectives of the organisations, procurement agility comes in many shapes and sizes.

Article courtesy of Procurious

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Gordon Donovan is a procurement "lifer" having worked in procurement my entire working career (26 years). As a fellow of CIPS, he is passionate about raising procurements influence within organizations and the value that procurement can deliver.

He is a sought-after facilitator and trainer, stimulating thought and debate about procurement development and how it can be implemented. As a practitioner, he leads teams to improved business outcomes through integrating procurement and organizational strategy.

Through published articles and training programs he aim to increase the skill base of procurement professionals to allow them to deliver the value that they can create for their organisations.

He is also a licensed SDI (Strength Deployment Inventory) facilitator, which allows him to develop high performing teams and improve internal and external communication planning and delivery. 

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