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The Qualities of a Successful Procurement Leader

The future of supply chain management has moved beyond cost reduction and the timely delivery of goods to include an increasingly complex landscape dominated by legal matters, sustainability issues, and technological advances-- all of which are forcing businesses to rethink the way they operate and brand themselves. The gate keeper at the center of this transformation is the procurement leader. Of all the challenges that can disrupt the supply chain, having the wrong person in this key position sits at the top.

The successful procurement leaders of today need an unusual mix of skills and experience. Not only must they have technical procurement expertise and be able to manage and support suppliers, staff and an increasingly complex mix of stakeholders, but they must also be fluent in the evolving big data strategies and the technology that are reinventing the procurement process.

As the dynamics of procurement evolve, procurement leaders must develop several key qualities in order to fulfill their roles effectively:

They have an understanding of the different viewpoints along the supply chain.
 Collaboration has always been important for procurement leaders, but today it’s even more essential as the workforce becomes more global and diverse. These leaders need to work well with a wide variety of people possessing different viewpoints, skill sets and goals and be able to build collaborative relationships. A good procurement leader understands where suppliers are coming from and figures out what is important to them. He or she is credible with senior stakeholders and knows how to speak their language. Finally, effective procurement leaders are also in touch with the major departments and category teams, picking up on strengths and weakness and anticipating staff challenges.

They take a holistic approach to procurement. When it comes to sustainability, procurement activity must be aligned with the core business goals and needs. Procurement leaders need to consider the big picture of the procurement process and how it fits into the functioning of the business. For this reason, cost reduction is not always an organization’s number-one goal. Sometimes the most important factor is keeping supply chain disruption to a minimum or looking for suppliers that can provide loyal commitment.

They proactively respond to change. Procurement leaders need to be able to operate in a dynamic world in which companies and functions are constantly evolving. The emergence and continued development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, as well as data mining, analysis and management coupled with advancements in communications technologies, have turned the business world on its head. Never before have so many basic operational business functions seen so much disruption in such a short amount of time. Procurement leaders must know how to make strategic decisions throughout the transformation and put systems in place to allow those decisions to happen quickly and effectively.

They are constantly learning. With every new technology and business process that is introduced to the organization, the role of the procurement leader changes. Procurement leaders need to have their fingers on the pulse of this change and know when it’s time to seek out additional advice, knowledge or training. Without such an awareness and an openness to learning, these professionals risk being out of the loop, and if that happens, it threatens to hold the whole organization back.

Though it takes a significant amount of skill, talent, and expertise to effectively fulfill the role of procurement leader, there are many professionals out there who could make suitable candidates with the right training. The investment is worth it. A good procurement leader may not be as well-known as the company’s CEO, but this person is practically the cornerstone of a well-run organization.

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