Scratching your head about how to improve your interdepartmental relationships? We went straight to the source.
At one of Corporate United's recent SYNERGY conferences, we invited C-level professionals from marketing, legal and IT to sit on a panel to discuss just that. Here's their view of procurement's value and how procurement professionals can improve their relationships and interactions with other departments.
Q: Do you work with procurement?
A: “We don’t avoid procurement.”
Fortunately, we are far from the days when other functions barely knew what procurement was or viewed them as merely transactional. But we still need to make improvements to establish strategic relationships between procurement and other functional groups.
While some companies have top-down mandates to work with other functions; most choose for themselves to utilize cross-functional teams. The panelists recognized the need for relationships and respect across the organization, but no individual panelist had a solid approach for creating this culture.
Q: How could YOU work WITH PROCUREMENT?
All three panelists – IT, legal and marketing – mentioned that they manage some sourcing-related projects themselves. What's more, for “information gathering” business projects, they typically don't see a reason to involve procurement.
This "do it yourself" attitude leaves procurement with few invitations to engage, but where there's not an invitation, invite yourself! The goal is to show the value procurement brings beyond savings.
The marketing panelist suggested that procurement could act as a buffer for sourcing projects for other functions – between marketing and the agencies with which they negotiate, for example.
Q: When do you Find Procurement Most Helpful?
A: “High dollar spend projects and Detailed negotiations”
Other functions most often collaborate with procurement on sourcing projects that require vendor evaluation, bid creation and review. Those departments find procurement especially helpful for large projects with high dollar spends that require detailed negotiations. Since procurement typically does not work as closely with the vendors providing the needed service, they often have a more objective view on a sourcing project for another department.
The marketing panelist provided a great example of procurement providing insight on a collaborative sourcing project. Her marketing department had a brochure to print and took it out to bid. Procurement reviewed the brochure and made recommendations on changing the specifications, which resulted in money saved for the marketing department.
So How can Procurement Improve Collaboration with other Departments?
Start by listening. Respectfully request an invitation to another department's staff meeting. Take a lot of notes and don't say a word while you're there (unless called upon, of course). After the fact, thank your "sponsor" for their invitation and propose how procurement might be able to ease their burden by helping with projects X, Y and Z. Explain how you can give them more time for their strategic projects by taking the projects – or portions of a project – that typically steal their time.
Want more Relationship tips?
Read "Wellness Check: How Healthy is Your Procurement and IT Relationship" for 6 indicators of a healthy partnership.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.