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Procurement people are passionate problem solvers. Here is a short story from one of our clients to prove it. Several years ago, America’s largest and oldest metal forge teetered on the brink of closing its doors after a devastating fire. Just days earlier, the company had inked its largest deal ever with the local National Hockey League franchise for commemorative metal pieces. Instead of taking their business elsewhere, the NHL team asked how they could help. Procurement was at the table when the two organizations determined that by pre-paying for some of the order and committing to other long-term purchases, the team could be part of a larger solution that allowed the metal forge company to rebuild bigger and better than before.
“That story is a testament to the true, impactful partnerships that procurement can develop,” says WNS Denali’s Shari Thomas.
Procurement is filled with endless opportunities to positively impact business outcomes. This profession can energize you. And that’s why we are passionate about sharing why this career path is great for anyone just starting out or looking to make a career change.
We recently convened a small panel of WNS Denali employees – Ruth Bacher, Vince Comunale, and Shari Thomas – who’ve made procurement their life’s work to learn more about the field and why others should consider it themselves.
In a nutshell, procurement is naturally designed to help organizations save money, according to both Bacher and Comunale.
Comunale offers an example. Suppose a company needs to buy pens for all of their global offices. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. There are many questions that need to be answered before you can find the right supplier, such as:
What color do you need for the ink?
Does the pen need a logo? If so, where should it be placed?
Should the pen have a cap or be a click top?
How quickly are the pens needed?
Where do they need to be shipped?
Where should they be manufactured?
Procurement helps its stakeholders’ sort through those questions. Together, they find the best supplier with the best price and quality who can best meet the specifications.
An out-of-date view of what procurement professionals do is rooted in the purchasing departments of years past. Those departments issued paper purchase orders and chased after suppliers and vendors for payment. Today the field of procurement is so much more.
“Procurement is relevant to every industry,” says Bacher.
Because every industry – food, automotive, fashion, healthcare, computers, construction – needs raw materials or resources, office supplies and furniture, technology, etc. to function, there are job opportunities in a broad array of companies.
“What I like most about working in procurement is that it’s different every day,” says Comunale.
“Particularly at a company like WNS Denali where we have such a variety of clients and we can switch accounts occasionally and learn about different industries. It keeps my work fresh and exciting.”
Thomas, who began her career with a finance degree, expands on that idea noting the tremendous variety of specialization afforded by a career in procurement: “You can do research and market intelligence, sourcing, contracting and take that all the way through to strategic planning, logistics and buying. There are so many opportunities within procurement that utilize different talent sets.”
All three panelists agreed that showing reluctant stakeholders the benefits that procurement brings to the table keeps them motivated.
“We can all recall the ‘surprise’ savings we delivered to a stakeholder that wins them over,” says Bacher.
One particularly memorable win for Comunale came when he ran a bid for laptops for a client. The IT manager was resistant, and thinking it was a waste of time. The IT manager was pre-convinced about the ideal supplier for the bid. Comunale and his team went forward with the bidding process to highlight the impact of procurement. The business was eventually awarded not to the anticipated supplier, but to another provider. As a result of this project, procurement helped the IT manager save more than $1 million on the purchase.
“The manager emailed me after the project and admitted that he was proved wrong,” recalls Comunale. “He thanked me and said he was glad we helped him with the purchase. That was a great feeling.”
So, what does it take to jump into the world of procurement?
Both Bacher and Comunale encouraged newcomers to focus on breadth of opportunity within procurement. Comunale recommended that you “not silo yourself into one area, particularly at the start of your career…try out contracting, data analysis, sourcing, etc. Find out what fits and at a place like WNS Denali, you can really explore all of the options.”
Bacher advises those just starting out or who are further along in their careers to stretch themselves saying,
“Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box where you are most comfortable. There might be some other areas you can excel at within the procurement field. It’s not just about numbers and math. There a lot of places to go with procurement…it can take you anywhere.”
Thomas emphasized the need for increased diversity within the field. The industry does an excellent job of promoting women to leadership roles and is always looking to expand diversity in other areas.
“Having a diverse team is important because there are always different angles and ways to view a procurement solution,”
– Thomas says.
She recalled a project for a large healthcare organization with multiple hospitals and medical offices and a huge donut budget topping nearly half a million dollars. Procurement was called in to consolidate suppliers and negotiate a better rate for the doughy treats. The contract was initially awarded to a large national company, but when it was discovered that the decision negatively impacted a local diversity supplier, it was reversed.
“Awareness and impact,” noted Thomas. “Having members of your team who are attuned to different angles and potential impacts of procurement decisions helps craft better solutions at the end of the day.”
If you want to explore all of the opportunities available through a career in procurement, we invite you to check out the WNS Denali careers website to learn more.