ProcureCon 2017 Series: Hot Topic 1: Internal Collaboration

Posted 23/11/2017

Future Purchasing procurecon cushions For as long as I can remember the conversation about how to engage more and most effectively across an organisation is the holy grail for procurement leaders.  It is a topic that will always get people talking, and I would say whilst it has always been a topic of discussion, the priority to get it ‘right’ or as near to, appears to be firmly at the top of the CPO and Procurement Leadership Team (PLT) agenda in 2017.

And at the recent Procurecon event, it was clear that the organisers and speakers thought so too with agenda headings such as (to mention just a few):

“How can you place the consumer at the heart of your function”

“How can you improve collaboration with your internal indirect business units, stakeholders…”

“How can you reposition your purchasing team as change managers and project leaders to better partner with your internal business lines”

and an interesting angle: “How can you negotiate effectively with internal business partners”

My view is that effective internal collaboration comes as a result of 2 distinct things: one through the power of following a robust and logical process, that relies on facts and data, and blows those popular myths away, and the other through an innate confidence and strong ability to listen, engage and influence. In other words, the 2 distinct areas are process and behaviour.

1. The Power of Process

Listening to Ville Kuusela’s presentation on how his organisation, Metso, have demonstrated value and motivated their internal customers it was clear how the use of good, old, tried and tested processes has created real value for them.  With more than 50 countries, 180 locations, 11000 experts and revenue of more than 2,586 million Euros this is a complex organisation.  And in trying to create value within the indirects space (over 30% of the spend), Ville and the team relied on good, robust structure and methodology to create a series of case studies which have realised a demonstrable return.  Starting with a driver for change from the very top of the organisation, followed by a reviewed operating model and organisation design, they created the story to gain the attention of people internally.  To maintain that position, they summarise their ‘path to success’ in 5 steps:

There are a couple of takeaways from this and other discussions that other speakers brought to life from this session, and this slide in particular.

To focus on the first takeaway: just because a methodology is old, and been-around, does not make it any less valid. There is a tendency – and I note this among some speakers actually – to jump on the bandwagon of the new (big data/technology, bitcoin, smacbraid, robotics and so on) and give the impression the old is no longer relevant. Ville’s story and many other stories shared during roundtables and instigated by other speakers such as Jacob Dahl from SKF, Teresa de la Torre (Almirall) and Rob Anthony from Rolls Royce don’t only ‘suggest’ that old fashioned method and structure works, but their case studies prove it.

And this fits well with our own research from our well-known category management survey , our various blogs borne from experience and observations, and other thought leadership papers stored within the Future Purchasing ever expanding knowledge hub.  Indeed the 5 steps highlighted by Metso fits very well against our Category Management change plan building blocks – i.e. the FP Category Management Operating Model ™ of (1) Build, (2) Learn, (3) Lead, (4) Apply and (5) Deliver.  The way we’ve codified this way of setting up and engaging the organisation has been worked with organisations successfully over the last 14 years and is constantly getting refreshed based on our latest research findings. We know for example what the top 19 practices are – out of the 100 key activities identified – that really make the difference in engaging and building momentum within and across a business. Take a look at our postcard on building that category management change plan here:

The second takeaway that I particularly loved from this was the mantra at the bottom of the Metso slide “Push, push and push! Celebrate the victory!”  which leads me more onto the behavioural side of collaboration.

2. The power of Attitude and Behaviour

There was another really interesting session focussing on Negotiation, that for the first time that I can recall in a conference called out specifically how important a negotiation technique is to sell and influence internally i.e. when collaborating with cross functional teams. This is something that I have been firmly talking about for some years – and for those who know me well – I have always said that Supplier Relationship Management is in fact a series of negotiations – some long term, some shorter term, some strategic, some tactical.  Laurence Perot of Logitech and Giuseppe Conti from Merck joined forces to get the delegates thinking about how you negotiate effectively to achieve ‘collaboration’ and explored with the group about the challenges of internal negotiations ( as opposed to the external ones us procurement folk are more familiar with), how we should prepare for such challenges (and indeed a honest appraisal of whether we all do prepare with quite the same rigour as we would for an external conversation) and whether we knew how to deal with conflicting interests. Now there are many different techniques for dealing with interests in negotiations – check out our Negotiation series for further information. A Buyer’s Guide - Identifying Interests In Procurement Negotiations is a good place to start.

In some ways however, this is still leaning on process structures to support collaboration and influencing but I think there is an area of collaboration that so far is not being given the attention it deserves on the conference circuit or with the CPOs and Procurement Leadership teams (PLTs).  And that’s the impact of personal and team attitude on being able to build powerful relationships.  No doubt of course, PLTs will discuss the topic of attitude especially with HR colleagues around the appraisal process time, but I think there is a huge opportunity to create coaching plans to support the improvement of this, rather than leaving it at the 'recognition' stage only, that it exists.

The FP training and coaching programmes deal with attitude as much, if not more than process.  We know, through experience as well as reading a wealth of research on the topic and engaging with expert partners that it takes a positive attitude to achieve positive results, and create positivity and a success mindset in those working with and around you. And the good news is that it is totally within our individual control.  If you’d like to hear more about how our recommended approach to coaching and improving collaboration, then please get in touch with myself Allison Ford-Langstaff at

Tagged by topic: Business & Stakeholder Engagement , News

  by Allison Ford-Langstaff

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