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Procurement’s Move from a Functional to a Strategic Role

from  May 13, 2024 | 5 min read

Procurement is evolving from a predominantly functional role into a strategic one. More than just a change in terminology, this transformation represents a mindset shift to how businesses understand and leverage their purchasing power.     

Fueling this needed evolution are factors like globalization, increased competition, technological advancements, and most recently notable: the need to foster sustainability and ethical goals achieved through the procurement function.

The Factors Behind the Strategic Shift 

Globalization – Global trade has introduced both new challenges and opportunities that demand greater supply chain resilience. Changes in the geopolitical and economic environment require procurement to adopt a more strategic approach that hinges on long-term partnerships with suppliers to avoid possible supply chain disruptions.

Technological Advancements – The emergence of new technologies empowers this procurement process transformation through more sophisticated data analysis to facilitate real-time decision-making. Long gone are the days of manual data analysis, now companies are focusing on diving deeper into numbers and acting accordingly with key analysis of more complex concerns like market analysis, supplier innovation, and risk management.

Sustainability and Ethical Considerations – Over the past decade, sustainability has risen to become a top concern for many consumers and businesses alike. Regulatory pressure intensifies this concern, making addressing the issue unavoidable. Companies must adjust sourcing strategies to include suppliers who share the same ethical and environmental standards to increase visibility and ensure compliance along the entire supply chain.

Risk Management – Managing risk is essential in today’s highly volatile business environment. As the world becomes more interconnected, and interdependent, supply lines must become more diverse to mitigate the impact of primary risk drivers such as geopolitical tensions, catastrophic weather, or sudden economic shifts.  

Transitioning to a Strategic Role

The transition from a functional role to a strategical role involves several key procurement practice changes:

From Cost Focus to Value Creation – The sole goal of cost reduction is outdated and short-sighted, procurement teams must now concern themselves with becoming value creators. Strategic procurement seeks to leverage supplier capabilities for innovation and quality improvement. When successfully done in tandem, this approach drives value for the company and consumer, while also reducing unnecessary cost.

Supplier Relationships – Strategic procurement fosters long-term partnerships with suppliers, recognizing them as sources of innovation and competitive advantage. Both parties must work toward process and product improvement, driving mutual success.

Cross-functional Collaboration – Strategic procurement requires close collaboration with other functions like marketing, finance, and R&D to ensure procurement plans align with overall business objectives.

Leveraging Data for Decision Making – Strategic procurement leverages data analytics for market intelligence, risk management, and decision support. This data enhances transparency and drives efficiency.  

Possible Transitional Challenges

While the shift from functional to strategic is necessary, there may be some hurdles to overcome in the process. Here are some ideas to consider:

Cultural Shift – Organizations must overcome the traditional view of procurement as a simple back-office function and recognize procurement’s full strategic potential. This mindset shift may take some time to fully resonate with all key stakeholders. Patience and data are key to ensuring a successful embrace of this new role view.

Skills Gap – Expanding skillsets is essential as the role of procurement evolves. Whether this means more training for teams using new tools, or just learning to implement more strategic thinking, a growth period during transition is to be expected. Understanding and reacting to data analytics is key to stakeholder expectation management.

Technology Adoption – Implementing new technologies is typically a catalyst for new ways of working. Adopting new solutions often comes at an initial expense of both time and capital, but if the right solution is chosen, the return on investment will reveal itself quickly.

Stakeholder Engagement – Stakeholder buy-in is sometimes difficult if the strategic value of procurement is not immediately evident. Aligning procurement strategies with overall business objectives is critical to effective communication that encourages stakeholder engagement.     

Strategic Procurement Benefits

Enhanced Competitiveness – Strategic procurement focuses on innovation and promoting supply chain efficiency. Prioritizing these essentials inevitably enhances a company’s competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Cost Reduction and Value Maximization – Strategic procurement goes beyond cost reduction and recognizes the importance of maximizing value through supplier collaboration, innovation, and risk management.

Supply Chain Resilience – Strategic procurement allows organizations to anticipate, respond, and quickly recover from any disruptions in the supply chain. 

Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility – Strategic procurement ensures supply chains are sustainable and ethical, aligning with corporate values and social responsibility goals set by both regulatory bodies and the consumer base.

No longer a solely functional role, strategic procurement teams should be embraced by organizations as a crucial aspect of any future-focused organization. When equipped with the right technology and advantage when equipped with the technology and foresight to effectively drive value.      

Henrik Leerberg

Vice President, Global Procurement Marketing - Marketing Scanmarket

As Scanmarket's Vice President, Global Procurement Marketing Henrik oversees all marketing activities globally by fueling growth and creating value for both existing and new customers. Henrik has worked in software and electronics businesses throughout his entire career, operating in B2B markets. With more than 25 years of leadership experience from a range of software companies, Henrik has built a solid foundation for a broad business understanding within all aspects from engineering over marketing and sales to administration. Henrik holds degrees in Marketing and Business Administration and in Electrical Engineering.

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