Why does it seem so hard at times for us to build strong ties with internal customers? Day to day demands drag us away from our plans to communicate regularly and find out from our colleagues ‘what is going on’. Many of us are too busy keeping on top of emails and attending today’s meetings to fulfil our intention to ‘check in’ on how that oh-so promising supplier is doing now they have won the contract.
When asked about the quality of their stakeholder relationships, most procurement teams recognise this is a key area for improvement. They agree it is critical to the development of meaningful strategies but are often struggling to build the rapport and trust necessary for effective cross functional teamwork.
Where communication is failing, stakeholders, for their part, will have their own reasons for not seeking out procurement involvement. These may be down to misapprehensions about our role or less than positive past experience. Some will wish to control their expenditure, and see us as an unwelcome arbiter, rather than a facilitator, in the decision-making process; some may just want to ‘get on and do’ and believe we slow the process down; others may just want us to come in as the ‘negotiator’ at the end of the process to ‘knock a bit more off the price’.
Sure, these factors can make it more difficult but we should resist the temptation to use them as excuses or let them undermine our professional self-confidence. Instead, why not turn it around and realise that by acknowledging how we are sometimes seen, we make ourselves stronger. If we are to shake off these common and recurrent perceptions, there needs to be a sea-change in the level and quality of communication.
Fundamentally this needs to come from us: we need to lead the way, making time to build those all-important stakeholder relationships even when a deadline is not pressing. We need to do the groundwork and demonstrate a truly customer-focussed approach, showing a determination to understand customer priorities and build supportive commercial strategies. We need to work cross-functionally throughout the process to ensure the right outcomes are sought and delivered. This way, over time, we will be able to bust those old myths and demonstrate how procurement, if involved early enough, and consistently enough, can accelerate the achievement of a whole range of critically important corporate goals.
In future blogs I’ll be sharing top tips on making time for and planning effective
communication with your stakeholders and look at ways to develop powerful customer-focussed
relationships which bring your business the results it needs.