My Purchasing Center Profiles the Procurement Professional

By Susan Avery

January 06, 2014 at 11:33 AM

While assuring supply at competitive cost will always be their core role, procurement professionals continue to take on increasingly important responsibilities in their organizations.  

They find the work challenging and are satisfied with the career they’ve chosen--and would recommend procurement as a field of study to young people. 

These are just a few findings from an online survey of procurement professionals conducted recently by My Purchasing Center. The survey results paint a picture--or a profile--of the procurement professional today. 

Most telling is that the function is strategic and that there is no typical job description or procurement professional.  

Case in point: One procurement professional responding to the survey says he manages capital expenditures and materials, leads, or is a member of, an executive steering committee to develop policies and procedures for the organization. He resolves issues that arise with business processes and the organization’s SAP operating system. He says--in words that perhaps sum up the thoughts of procurement professionals everywhere, “It appears that my responsibilities and roles within our organization go beyond the title of Corporate Purchasing Manager.”

Other respondents describe their responsibilities as such:

  • "Building/sustaining a team that sets strategy and sources all products necessary to sustain continuous manufacturing operations throughout North America at the best cost to my company."
  • "Providing management and strategic leadership for a team engaged with providing centralized procurement services to all customer groups across a full spectrum of product and service lines."
  • "Commodity management, supplier selection, early purchasing involvement, material selection, technology assessment, contract negotiations, influencing early design, total cost analysis for new product launch and product transfers between manufacturing sites."
  • "Source identification up to the contract closing and contract compliance; purchase of IT, company cars and trucks fleet, corporate office supplies and catalogs data control (indirect material, services/suppliers)."
  • "Supplier relationship management, ensuring continuity of supply, cost management, driving implementation of sourcing strategies."

Procurement Demographics

According to results of the My Purchasing Center survey, the procurement professional today is more likely to be male--67% of respondents are men--and they have a wealth of knowledge. Seventy percent are older than 45 years of age and 80% have worked more than 10 years in procurement. 

Most procurement professionals have experience in other areas of the company: Seventy percent began their careers working in other disciplines. Of this figure, 38% have production experience, 27% worked in inventory control, 26% in engineering, 26% in finance/accounting and 22% in sales.

Procurement professionals are well educated: Eighty-four percent have a college degree, with the majority (70%) having studied business. Twenty-six percent have an MBA. Another 18% have graduate degrees in such fields as supply chain management, engineering (chemical, mechanical, industrial), finance and law. 

They see value in education--procurement professionals love learning. Fifty-four percent hold professional certification. Of this figure, 53% have earned their CPSM (Certified Professional in Supply Management awarded by the Institute for Supply Management), 29% hold a CPP (Certified Purchasing Professional from the American Purchasing Society), 29% have a CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management from APICS, and 14% have a SPSM (Strategic Professional in Supply Management from Next Level Purchasing). Procurement professionals also hold the CPM (Certified Purchasing Manager from ISM).  

More than three-quarters of respondents to the My Purchasing Center survey take advantage of opportunities to continue their training by attending courses or participating in education sessions. They’re most likely to seek out and take classes in negotiations and project management. They’re also especially interested in lean manufacturing, change management and leadership learning. 

Twenty-eight percent of My Purchasing Center survey respondents work in procurement for companies with more than $3 billion in annual sales. 

They’re employed in a range of industries, from manufacturing to healthcare to financial services. This finding shows the value of procurement to the well-being of all kinds of organizations.

Sixteen percent of procurement professionals work in miscellaneous manufacturing; 15% in process industries; 11% in transportation/automotive; 11% in healthcare; 8% in education; 7% in pharmaceuticals; 6% in primary metals/metal fabricating; 6% in equipment and machinery; 5% in financial services and 5% in wholesale/durable goods/service centers. 

Procurement reports to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at 44% of respondents’ companies; the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at 30% of companies and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at 26%.

Procurement is no stranger to participating in or leading cross functional sourcing teams. Procurement maintains relationships with and most often works with such diverse groups as operations, manufacturing, engineering, maintenance, finance, accounting, sales, marketing, legal, logistics, risk, quality and senior management. 

Twenty-seven percent of respondents to the My Purchasing Center survey are responsible for managing more than $100 million in annual spend. Sixty-four percent are supervisors, with 47% responsible for managing teams of more than five people. One third holds the title of Director, Vice President or CPO. Another 4% are category managers. Other popular titles for today's procurement professional: Specialist and Analyst. 

Working in such a variety of industries means procurement professionals today are responsible for sourcing all kinds of goods and services. They manage such big general spend categories as office products (61%), MRO (52%), IT (49%), consulting (42%), chemicals (41%), packaging (40%), electronic components (40%), logistics (39%), metals (38%), energy (27%), marketing (24%), travel (22%), labor (19%), HR benefits (16%) and legal (10%), among others. 

Procurement Selects Suppliers

Most assuredly procurement professionals select the supplier from whom their organizations purchase these goods and services. The majority of respondents to the My Purchasing Center survey say they either make the decision themselves or with the input of a cross functional team. Here’s a sampling of their responses to the query on this topic:

  • “Either final decision maker or heavy influence.”
  • “Lead the selection process, analyze, influence and recommend based on supplier core competency to match with business needs.”
  • “Assuring appropriate sourcing strategy used, appropriate cross-functional personnel are involved using appropriate selection criteria, and doing so that appropriate rigor is used as a function of risk, criticality and spend." 
  • “I am very involved - from initial selection to final approval.”
  • “Overall responsibility for the decision with heavy input from a cross functional team of internal stakeholders.”

Making possible procurement’s capability to take on more strategic roles in the organization is the use of technology tools. Of those available for procurement teams, 68% regularly use software developed for strategic sourcing. Others use tools for contract management (60%), spend analysis (56%), e-procurement (54%), spend management (37%), e-catalogs (37%), procure-to-pay (24%) and e-auctions (15%).

While most procurement professionals say the most rewarding aspect of their job is success at complex negotiations with a strategic supplier, many find satisfaction in other areas such as collaborating with people in other disciplines, learning about new technology and suppliers, and finding new ways to add value. Today’s procurement professionals especially like this about their jobs:

  • “Being part of company leadership; developing people; connecting with stakeholders in other functions.”
  • “Being a leader on supply chain initiatives that impact/benefit the business directly, exposure to new technologies that will help improve overall system/design. 
  • “Successfully launching new products and negotiating with suppliers and learning what capabilities each bring to the table.”
  • “Finding solutions to complex buy opportunities or solutions to relational issues in the supply management process (internal and external).”
  • “Developing strategies that meet and exceed the need of the business clients resulting in tangible bottom line impact to the organization. Negotiations at all levels." 
  • “Sourcing and working with engineering on new designs.”

Not surprisingly, procurement professionals face a host of challenges as they execute their responsibilities. “Too much to do and not enough time . . . Not enough people resources,” is a common lament of procurement professionals.” Others could use more support from senior management and colleagues in other areas of the organization. Keeping up with technology advances, finding and retaining qualified help and managing risks are other trials for procurement professionals in 2013. 

Continuous improvement is on the mind of procurement professionals. While they report satisfaction with their career choice, they are vocal about ways the function can be improved--especially at their own companies. As expected, they’d like more resources--personnel and salary, but also more opportunity for training and introduction of technology tools to ease some tactical duties. They also would like to see improved communication, increased support from management, more early involvement and better forecasting. Here’s a closer look:

  • “Move oversight from finance to the CEO.”
  • “Continuing to become a more integral part of the business process at all levels within the enterprise.”
  • “Procurement needs to become a core business function and procurement professionals need to build strong business acumen and not just rely on negotiation skills.”
  • “The procurement function at my company could be improved by investing money in enabling technologies. If we could automate routine tasks, we could focus on more value-added activities such as supplier management.”
  • “Devote more resources to information intelligence and analysis to better understand commodities and markets opportunities and train people on how to leverage it.”
  • “Commitment and communication between multiple functions within the company. Cost reduction responsibility should be a collaborative effort across the organization and not solely a procurement target.." 

Procurement professionals no matter their age have high career aspirations--those who are older are anticipating retirement but they want to be sure they leave a lasting legacy. Younger procurement professionals are eager to continue learning and are working toward that CPO or a higher role in their organization. Here’s what they’re saying about their ultimate career goal: 

  • “Get another degree (master) in supply chain and promoted to head of purchasing.”
  • “To retire. I have been working in Procurement for over 30 years. It has been a wonderful profession, a great ride, my passion. I have worked for first class companies and met many talented people. I have worked very hard (procurement is not a career for the laid-back) and I am now ready to have fun and travel.”
  • “Work as part of a high performing, passionate team to achieve something great!”
  • “Be CPO, Chief Procurement Officer, for multibillion dollar company.” 
  • “To successfully build a procurement department from the ground up that is considered best in class.”

Given an opportunity to start all over, 80% would choose procurement as a career. Ninety-two percent would recommend it to a young person. 


A Day in the Life of a Procurement Professional

While job responsibilities for today’s procurement professional seem to vary from individual to individual so too are the procurement professional’s days anything but similar. According to results of the My Purchasing Center survey, here's a quick peek into what a procurement pro's day may look like:

  • “No such thing as a typical day, but some common elements include meetings with internal customers and external suppliers, strategy sessions with commodity managers, heavy reading on related commodities and industries, business forecasting.”
  • “Meet with corporate legal and supplier for contract execution, collaborate with multiple departments for material productivity saving projects, develop, lead and implement e-procurement events, award business and consolidate supply base.”
  • “Follow up on with team on inbound raw materials needed to support the production team and schedule, strategic overview of the customer opportunities to maintain programs that meet their expectations (sustainability, cost reductions, contingency planning, etc.)”
  • “Working with suppliers on negotiating agreements. Working with legal department for approval of agreements. Monitoring suppliers performance. Working with operations to improve material availability.”














Tags: purchasing Professional development Supply chain management Careers Procurement sourcing
Category: News Article

Susan Avery


Susan Avery is Editor-in-Chief at My Purchasing Center. She writes articles, blogs and white papers and manages and creates other content for the online procurement and supply management publication. She produces and moderates roundtable discussions, podcasts, webcasts and video interviews. Susan has 30 years experience covering procurement and supply management for Purchasing magazine and 

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