Three Ways to be the Steve Jobs of Procurement

By Guest Editor

December 03, 2015 at 7:38 AM

By Kanika Sharma, Zycus  

Sitting in the office Monday morning, I was trying to recall names of famous CEOs. The names that came to my mind were Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Indira Nooyi and many more. What made Steve ‘The Steve Jobs’ a legend, a person driven purely by innovation, perfection, simplicity and belief in his dreams? This was followed by the question of what one can do to be the ‘The Steve’ of Procurement. 

Be the Steve! 

Innovate. In old times, innovation was usually associated with a mission of accelerated growth. But in present times, it is a prerequisite for simply staying competitive and maintaining past growth rates. This revised perspective of the purpose of innovation represents a profound break from the past, one requiring pervasive changes in every business services organization, including procurement.

Example: Rick Hughes, Advisor to C-Suite Executives on Supply Management and Strategic Engagements. As a CPO for P&G, he took on what was already an active internal cost management program at P&G, but helped to instill a new, company-wide system that focused on what was measurable and deliverable. He streamlined processes in the supply chain  as an alternative to asking suppliers to cut their margins. Most notably, Hughes was known for creating an important link with P&G’s Chief Marketing Officer, despite the suggestion that marketing and purchasing don’t play nicely together. This innovative approach of Hughes helped P&G with better return on marketing and advertisement investments. 

Simplicity is the key. As Jobs always played it – ‘Simple,’ it is advisable for us to play it simple. Rather than using too much technical jargon, let’s try to explain the processes, systems and solutions in a simpler and easy way so that it can be understood by a person from a non-procurement background. 

Example: Stijn van Els, CEO (designate) QP/ Shell Petrochemical joint venture. He previously worked as Executive Vice President, Contracting and Procurement at Shell. As supply markets fluctuate continuously, he and his team have to precisely anticipate market movements, and develop the right approach to source goods and services in a way that is more profitable and competitive. They came up with Enterprise Category Management. In this practice, regional employees around the globe reported ideas directly to the Shell C&P team, which is coordinated by Stijn. He kept it simple so that employees, even with non-procurement backgrounds, could contribute to the exercise, thus improving savings.

Look for misfits. Steve once said “Here’s to the crazy ones, to the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in square holes…” We are too obsessed with procurement professionals, procurement advisors, and procurement analysts; totally ignoring the misfits around us. The day when we will start appreciating the ideas coming from cross-functional minds we will certainly move a step ahead in this journey. 

Example: Leslie Campbell, Member Board of Directors at Bideawee. She worked as a CPO at Reed Elsevier from 2007 to 2012. During her tenure she worked to build an open relationship with her team and suppliers to discuss areas that needed development. Being an advocate of importing talent from non–procurement backgrounds, because she believed that they could acquire the necessary knowledge. Her belief that these employees will become strong ambassadors for the procurement process, while adding cross-functional experience, turned into a reality for Reed Elsevier.

In conclusion, I would just like to say: Be the innovator, be the initiator, always keep it simple, and appreciate the misfits. Mixing up the ‘like us and the not like us’ will help us to understand what it takes to be the ‘Steve of Procurement.’


Kanika Sharma_Zycus.jpg Kanika Sharma works as a Marketing & Communications Executive at Zycus. Follow her on Twitter @maktub_kanika.


Tags: purchasing CPO Supply chain management Careers Procurement Technology Leadership Jobs sourcing
Category: News Article

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