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One of the most common misunderstandings about procurement is that it’s all processes, figures, and pre-mapped workflows with little room for creativity. I’ve frequently battled this perception myself, having been a marketing procurement practitioner for the last decade. The tune goes a little something like this, “Marketing is the most innovative function in the land, and procurement is…well…numbers.” Can you relate?
Well, that perception couldn’t be further from the truth. As a procurement professional, your success isn’t just heavily characterized by creativity…it’s dependent upon it. Here are just a few of the many ways in which creativity is essential to the field of procurement:
1. It’s Never the Same Answer Twice.
Even if you’ve sourced the same category for the last 20 years, no two projects will ever be exactly alike. Factors related to a specific category of spend are constantly in motion. Market dynamics, material costs, client/stakeholder needs, industry best practices - the list goes on and on. And even subtle shifts require us to look at our challenges and solutions differently. For example, take the perfect storm of supply logistics issues we’ve all been dealing with over the past several months. Enough said, right? I daresay most of our companies have met with unprecedented supply shortages, and our responses demonstrate loudly that being able to develop out-of-the-box solutions (no pun intended) can be a make-or-break skill. Simply stated, procurement challenges require innovation to achieve successful outcomes.
Furthermore, what classifies as sourcing innovation at the micro-level might be nothing short of transformational thinking at the macro level. For example, one of our high-tech clients experienced a 30% uptick in process efficiency and exponentially more scalability by rethinking their P2P system. Another client in the CPG industry executed 208 sourcing projects and launched 13 process improvement initiatives after taking a fresh look at its category management program and developing new approaches. We are passionate about collaborating with clients to improve their end-to-end procurement ecosystems through tailored approaches that meet their unique organizational needs. And it’s never the same recipe twice.
2. Creativity is Key to the Procurement Process Itself.
Let’s look at how category leaders approach a sourcing project. Even though we may operate according to a consistent strategic project management model, every stage of that game requires Design Thinking, from initial scoping to strategy implementation. And yes, that absolutely does include negotiation and contracting, both of which require a big helping of creative thought.
A deep dive into the strategic options generation stage of this model further illustrates the creative phenomenon at work. By this point, we’ve clarified the scope of the project, assessed business needs, amassed internal and external data, and developed insights from those compiled inputs. The goal now is to build potential go-forward sourcing strategies based on our insights - literally creating ways to address the opportunities identified. My friends, this is blue-sky thinking and procurement innovation at their finest.
3. Your Uniqueness Makes the Space Creative.
This theme can’t be amplified enough. YOU are unique. Your education, background, and experience, as well as your personal gifts and abilities, come together to paint a portrait distinct from that of every other procurement (and other) professional out there. How you see and approach situations will ALWAYS be completely original, which is an important asset to your craft. Never underestimate the power of your perspectives and ideas – they are worth sharing.
When we combine the three elements above with the myriad creative aspects we haven’t explicitly mentioned (like relationship management), we begin to see that creativity is a continuous thread that holds together every aspect of a procurement practitioner’s work. To boot, each of us brings a uniqueness of background and thought to our profession, affording creativity a permanent spot at the very front of the critical skillset for this field. Marketing no longer gets to have all the fun!
These tips are a small sample of a big topic that I am passionate about sharing with my procurement colleagues. Check out our pro-tip video on YouTube, or feel free to download the Design Thinking for Procurement handbook to learn more. How does creativity in procurement manifest for you? We invite you to join in the discussion on LinkedIn to share your thoughts, and let’s keep the conversation going!
Stacy Joslin leads Marketing for WNS Denali. Stacy has spent two decades in the Procurement and Marketing functions. Before joining WNS, she was the Head of Marketing Procurement at InterContinental Hotels Group. Prior to that, she held similar roles at Citrix, Novartis, and Pfizer. Stacy's favorite part about procurement is the opportunity it brings to benefit so many areas of the business and to partner with a wide network of colleagues. Stacy holds an MBA in Marketing and a Master’s in International Business from the University of Pittsburgh.