Predictions, priorities, and resolutions for Procurement in 2017?

by Bertrand Maltaverne

A weather man, [Phil Connors] (Bill Murray) is reluctantly sent to cover a story about a weather forecasting “rat” (as he calls it). This is his fourth year on the story […]. On awaking the ‘following’ day [at 6:00] he discovers that it’s Groundhog Day again, & again, & again. (Source: IMDB)

Every year, I feel a bit like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day.

A year ends. A new one starts. And, it will be the time for many, many, many posts and articles on the top predictions, priorities, and resolutions for Procurement in 2017.

They will most probably revolve around “big trendy words” like big data, predictive analytics, AI, …

The same words as the ones (that could have been) used in 2016, 2015, 2014… And that will (could) be used for 2018, 2019…

Making predictions…

Prediction: either wrong or about something that is already known to happen…

During his nightly TV weather forecast on February 1, meteorologist Phil Connors (Bill Murray) confidently reassures viewers that an approaching winter storm will miss western Pennsylvania completely. […] On February 2, Phil […] wants to return to Pittsburgh immediately. The blizzard — the one that Phil predicted would miss the area — resolves the issue by blanketing the region in snow. (Source: Wikipedia)

Beyond the accuracy of weather forecasts and more in relation with the business world, I am sure that, last year, some people predicted that 2016 would be the year for “harnessing the power of predictive analytics.” (Or something like that.)

Brexit, Trump… Most analysts and pollsters did not see it coming…

So, 2017, like 2016 and like 2018, will be unpredictable. Because of catastrophic, geopolitical, technological,… events or because people will be as “predictably irrational” as they were in the previous years.

So yes, in 2017, Procurement will have to become a trusted advisor. And risk management in an era of volatility and constant disruptions will be a vital capability… Same old, same old… Not really predictions…

Defining priorities…

Do not get me wrong. I believe in what is really behind of the words mentioned earlier. They can bring a lot of value to Procurement. For example, I did write a few posts on cognitive Procurement in the last weeks. I also believe that Procurement organizations have to consider these technical aspects carefully as they are important enablers of performance.

And, to some extent, the technology is already here. So, better to acknowledge it and to take advantage of it than to ignore it.

But, it has to be done in a well-thought manner. More than one-time priorities for one year, they are long-term strategies!

Setting resolutions…

No that either... But if you do set resolutions, keep them to yourself if you do not want to be like the 88% of the people who fail!

So, what to do?

More important than spending time on short-term questions, organizations would be better off working on their qualities.

These characteristics of organizations are the key to success in the long run. And by success, I mean for the broader community, society. Here are some and they should be the values of any Procurement organization! Always, and not just in 2017!

  • Credibility

Without credibility, all other initiatives are doomed. Procurement is at the risk of dying:

And, it is in large part because of the lack of credibility that many organizations suffer from. And, a simple rebranding will not suffice:

  • Humility

Procurement is about SRM²:

Being humble has to do with the way Procurement manages relationships and how it considers the other parties (as equals). Procurement has to embody the platinum rule of reciprocity and focus on the suppliers/customer experience that is the nature of business (H2H).

“The Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated) has a fatal flaw: it assumes that all people want to be treated the same way. It ignores the fact that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention. The Platinum Rule (treat others as they want to be treated) corrects that flaw.” Source

It is also about not being a know-it-all, on of the keys to respect and trust which are the foundations of value-based relationships.

Some learned about humility the hard way in 2016… (I wonder what kind of priorities they had for 2016…):

  • Humanity

Continuing on H2H (and as a consequence of that philosophy): people are what matters. Process and technology are important. But, what will make the difference is people.

And, it is about time that Procurement understands that:

Procurement must also get the right focus and approach on technology: People + Technology, not People vs. Technology.

  • Sustainability

And, if you look at the bigger picture, the impact that Procurement has goes well beyond the boundaries of its own walls. So, Procurement has to consider and take into account the long-term effects and consequences of its activities. This is about making sustainability a reality, and not a myth…

It is time to break the time loop!

Most Procurement teams will spend time on their traditional one-year horizon of predictions, priorities, and resolutions while the leading ones will focus on their organizational qualities…

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