Society is changing, organisations and the way they work are changing, and the profile of the purchaser is changing, too. In 2016 the purchaser is increasingly a bridge builder and an easily approachable team player. For today’s facility organisations, an effective procurement function really is indispensable. Without exception organisations are buying something, and the supply market is aptly responding to this. Single service providers specialise in managing one particular service for you. Other companies deliver a complete package of IFM services. There are many lines running between the field of procurement and the facilities field. That’s why it’s time for an overview of important trends and developments. By looking at these trends and developments, the growing focus on purchasing becomes clear: purchasing is becoming fun again!
Trends and developments
The professional field of purchasing has had to fight for its place in the organisation. In the past, the purchaser was expected to press for the best price in contract negotiations to obtain a few euros of profit. Nowadays this traditional purchaser, with his one-sided focus, is kept out of any conversation. But fortunately, the trends and developments show that the purchaser is back on the right track.
Integrated part of business
As a field of expertise purchasing is relatively young, especially in comparison with sales functions. But procurement is on the advance. Its traditional role is disappearing into the background. Nowadays professional procurement organisations help to translate policy into clear agreements with external suppliers. When it comes to products and/or services where organisations cannot achieve a competitive advantage themselves, external suppliers help to establish a lead on competitors. An organisation’s unique selling points aren’t achieved by its own products and services alone. Increasingly, external suppliers determine an organisation’s quality.
In order to fulfil this role, purchasers are networking more and more. The purchaser is at the service of the organisation. He represents the interests of the stakeholder groups and fulfils the role of liaison. This networking role comes to the fore in the following tasks:
- Translating policy into practical implementation.
- Preparing for the contract management phase (setting up the supply / demand management organisation, supplier management, et cetera).
- Forming a cross-functional project team for an integrated approach.
- Translating requirements and wishes into understandable specifications that comply with basic procurement principles.
- Modelling the relationship between the organisation and the external supplier.
Involving external suppliers in finding the solution
Despite the fact that at a strategic level an organisation might conclude that it was unable to achieve a competitive advantage on its own strength, resulting in the decision to outsource, the tactical/operational level continued to instruct external suppliers extensively on how they should offer their products and/or services. Fortunately, the external supplier is increasingly being acknowledged as the specialist in his area of expertise. Accordingly, more organisations decide to issue functional specifications, and use the instruments offered by solution-oriented and creative purchasers. Examples of these instruments are the procedure for Best Value Procurement, the Competition Proceedings with negotiations, or such tools as a market exploration or negotiation rounds (i.e. reaching agreement on the details of the offer).
A final point is that organisations show noticeably more trust in the relationships they enter into. The word partnership is used more than ever. Fortunately not every collaboration is a partnership. But it is the intention that counts; people want to work together again. In this context, organisations are increasingly asking themselves if they are realistic in their specifications, dare to view things from the perspective of other organisations, and show understanding of and respect towards their collaboration partners.
Purchaser’s profile is changing
As a result of the above, the profile and corresponding competencies for successfully carrying out the purchasing function has turned 180 degrees. Of course the purchaser should be proficient in the ‘classic’ competencies, such as negotiating skills, cost awareness, analytical thinking and good writing skills.
Customer-focused relationship manager with business management approach
The purchaser of today is a customer-oriented relationship manager with a business management approach and a positive and solution-oriented attitude. The relationship manager is expected to know what’s hot and what’s not. His recommendations take in the broad organisational context and developments, and he knows all relevant stakeholders. He is a respected sparring partner at business level and sensitive to signals from his surroundings, a bridge builder and an accessible team player. For this reason, good communication skills are vital.
And to make a contribution to the business the ideal purchaser has a positive and proactive attitude, while his creativeness enables him to come up with new initiatives and/or solutions. Organisations are constantly looking for improvements and many competencies can be learned. By investing in their people, organisations can professionalise further, and the (more traditional) purchasers can reach the next level.