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CPO Rising: Roadshows and embedded procurement operatives key to fostering collaboration

 

The new CPO Rising report for 2014 is here! If you’re interested in the future of procure-to-pay, you’ll want to get your hands on this report, as it contains a wealth of insights based on a survey of 270 procurement professionals on what’s coming down the pipe and how you can prepare.

 

Collaboration is one of the top things procurement needs to be thinking about. That’s not new, but it’s always a challenge. In this interview, Andrew Bartolini, Managing Partner and Chief Research Officer at Ardent Partners, and Publisher of CPORising.com, the first independent media site written for and about Chief Procurement Officers, shares some ideas for practical ways to foster collaboration.

 

Coupa: You call out collaboration as a key to future success, which is obviously not a new idea, but a lot of times people have trouble actually doing it. Can you put some detail around what people need to do now?

 

Andrew: Absolutely. I think you can enable collaboration to some degree by setting up situations where people are located together. There are CPOs who actually embed their staff within the business so that they can establish personal and professional relationships. Proximity and trust can create a lot of opportunities.

 

If you're a CPO and you have one of your people sitting in on the staff meetings of the different teams,

just as a “fly on the wall,” you can get a perspective as to what each organization is trying to do and why and when.

 

 

That can allow procurement to engage in value-added conversations. It's a different approach than a forced mandate from the CFO telling everyone they must work with procurement. Instead of having to work with some stranger, we’ll be working with Joe or Mary who we see all the time and even go to lunch with. It changes the dynamic.

 

Coupa: Are you saying get yourself invited to meetings?

 

Andrew: Yes. It’s the CPO is calling up the VP saying, “Hey I'd like to have my person sit in on your monthly staff meeting, do you have a problem with that?”

 

It's taking your procurement team and saying, “We're going to have two of you sit over by marketing; two of you sit over by the product team, one of you sit over here.” Then you start to meet and engage and just have normal conversations with people so you can understand what their jobs are, and you begin to cross-pollinate the skills within your group and create greater awareness of what procurement does and can do, which should create more opportunities for collaboration.

 

Coupa: In your report you also specifically mention the idea of putting on a roadshow. Have you seen this done?

 

Andrew: Yes, I've seen CPO roadshows in the past, primarily in support of a new initiative kickoff, usually involving technology. With a new technology plan, it is common for the CPO to go and engage a select set of stakeholders on the front end of the initiative, provide regular updates and do a final road show ahead of the software launch.

 

What we're proposing now is, let's not make the roadshow something that is event-specific. Let's go and engage the business at regular intervals with new and interesting ideas to keep the momentum going. Again, it’s the same concept of creating awareness as to what procurement does and can do, and some level of comfort and understanding that it can execute well. The executive engagement makes the next round of conversations easier to have and it's likely to create better follow through by the business on different opportunities.

 

Coupa: Are you saying institutionalize the roadshow?

 

Andrew: I'm saying that for CPOs that are managing 40 to 60 percent of their organization’s spend, there's a huge opportunity to expand and improve your group's influence.  An effective way to do that is to go around and put your best foot forward. You're the leader of your organization, so spend some time with that group that you're not engaged with today. Absolutely, institutionalize it.

 

Nothing succeeds like success, so bring one of your internal customers along and have them talk about their experiences. You need to market yourselves, and you need to do it in a consistent and deliberate fashion.

 

This doesn't mean every Monday you're out on the road, but it's something that can and should be done to create awareness, even for the customers that you are already engaged with. Let's go back and see how we performed, and let's begin to have conversations on how we can perform better.

 

Coupa: Might they need the marketing department to help them out?

 

Andrew: Potentially, but this isn't like a pre-IPO road show, with lots of bells and whistles. This is, “here's the standard update on what we're doing and how we can engage and support you.” It can be put together in a pretty straightforward way, and if the CPO can't do it, get one of your directors to put together a couple of slides so you can go have a conversation.

 

Coupa: Keep it simple.

 

Andrew: Right. I'm not suggesting a huge production. The core recommendation is to go out and engage the people that haven't done work with you yet, tell them what you do, sell it a little bit, bring along a reference so that they go "Hey, we didn't know this group has been so valuable to so many other groups in the enterprise. The last time we heard about procurement was eight years ago. Now we have a much better understanding of what they're doing and how they can help us.”  

 

Whether you call it a formal roadshow or not, if the average procurement organization is only managing 60 percent of total spend, that means the other 40 percent is not being influenced by procurement. So what are the strategies that you can utilize to place more of that 40 percent under your influence?

 

A roadshow, CPO marketing or team marketing, are effective ways to communicate, along with embedding your staff with the different organizations and other strategies to build a level of familiarity with procurement. Ultimately, this should lead to more conversations, which should lead to more collaboration, which should lead to more innovation and value.

 

 Next: Agile procurement requires e-Sourcing.