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"Procurement at a Crossroads": Spot On and Makes You Think

I had a chance to review the new book by Jim Hansen and Kelly Barner, “Procurement at a Crossroads“, which explores the many changes that the profession is facing, and challenges individuals to do things differently.  (I blushed a bit at the number of my  citations in the book including an interview I did with Kelly, so I promise this is not self-promotion!)  The authors do a great job of exploring what change in procurement consists of, and how it is likely to unfold in the next five years.

There is ample discussion in the first part of the book regarding the maturation of the profession as a whole.  They delineate the groups of procurement talent as traditional buyers, Generation Net, and second career professionals.  But to move towards change, they also point out that many of the people leaving the profession will be taking with them a huge amount of tacit knowledge.  One of the nice features of the book is the “back and forth” dialogue between Jon and Kelly, that provides differing perspectives on a number of topics.  For instance, they argue that influence will be one of the most important elements, and that until this capability is actively harnessed, procurement’s coming of age may be a long time in coming, but offer competing views on the subject.

I also like how they come up with a number of “rules” or “truths” throughout the book.  For instance, the three truths of purchasing we pursue which is “spend, supplier, and social” truths.  Spend truths will require improved data enrichment, supplier truth is about understanding multiple dimensions of our suppliers, and social truth is an accepted truth around sustainability and doing the right thing, which must bring facts to underscore it.  But they also tackle the issue of data and predictive analytics, pointing to the fact that prediction is much more difficult than historical reviews of what happened in the past.

The authors also go through and explore a number of other procurement issues that are often debated.   Many of these are drawn from Jon’s BlogTalk Radio show on procurement, as well as Kelly’s interviews and blogs.  For instance, they explore the issue of how familiarity can often breed contempt, yet how collaboration is difficult without familiarity!  They take on the need for financial understanding, and how procurement must be able to speak the language of finance.  The importance of social media as an indicator of supply market changes is also explored, and the emergence of cloud-based procurement as the new standard technology.  They look at the public versus private sector procurement, a topic which is indeed very brave of them to broach!  they explore how procurement can better exploit the media, rather than the other way around.  And they conclude with some future predictions about where procurement will go next.

That’s all I’m saying – no punch line.  You’ll have to read it!