The evolution of procurement: From “backwater” to driving force

The-Procurement-Value-Proposition-The-Rise-of-Supply-Management-1200x673A prize-winning new book presents a tantalizing view of the future of procurement.

It can be hard to dig through the avalanche of business titles published each year and choose one or two that are genuinely worth reading. But if you are involved in procurement or supply management, then you may want to add The Procurement Value Proposition: The Rise of Supply Management to your short list. It recently won the Grand Prix ACA-Bruel award, which is presented annually to books that make an important contribution to research and practice in the fields of procurement and supply chain management.

Authors Gerard Chick of the consulting firm Optimum Procurement Group and Robert Handfield of North Carolina State University contend that the procurement function of the future will look vastly different than it did in its recent past, when it was considered a “backwater” that played a minor role in a business’s overall mission. But that’s changing, and procurement is becoming critical to a company’s survival in today’s increasingly complex business world, they argue. Now, with outsourcing becoming nearly ubiquitous and supply chains growing in complexity, procurement is playing an important role in handling such crucial business concerns as risk management, compliance, and sustainability.

Chick and Handfield further show that the value procurement can bring to an organization can and should go beyond the traditional (yet still important) concerns of supply assurance and cost reduction. For example, they expect procurement will play an increasingly important role in product development and innovation.

The authors make clear from the beginning that the book is not a step-by-step, practical guide to implementing best practices in procurement. Rather, it presents a vision of what the discipline might encompass in the future and issues a powerful call for procurement organizations to make profound changes that will support new roles and responsibilities. These structural changes, the book says, will require procurement professionals to interact with and manage suppliers differently than they do now. For example, procurement organizations will increasingly be required to manage virtual networks of suppliers, stakeholders, and internal customers. To accomplish this, they will have to employ still-developing social media channels without sacrificing face-to-face relationships.

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