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How to be a successful Procurement Business Partner

What is Procurement Business Partnering?

Business partnering has become a popular way for procurement teams to improve their engagement with their internal stakeholders through developing a deeper understanding of their business needs.

A Procurement Business Partner is a person who acts as a conduit between the Procurement function and the rest of the business and translates the needs of the business into suitable Procurement language. They build deep trusting relationships with senior stakeholders across the business to understand their business challenges, objectives and strategies and sensitively balance local business requirements with group priorities. Part of their role is to challenge the business norms and explore new opportunities to add value by bringing external insight, third-party innovation and procurement excellence to evolve functional strategies into focused procurement strategies that can be implemented. It is usually a senior role that has the potential to greatly improve integration and efficiency within the organisation.

In some respects, business partnering has become the natural progression for Procurement teams to move from their traditional stakeholder engagement approach to a more sophisticated deeply embedded relationship status that identifies greater value for its stakeholder community. It can help move Procurement teams from the tactical mindset of cost reduction to a more strategic approach to value creation.

What are the critical components of being a successful business partner?

Stakeholder engagement
  • Stakeholder engagement – build positive relationships with people by listening to and understanding their needs
  • Understanding & influencing stakeholders
  • Building rapport, trust and confidence to deliver
  • Managing conflict in a proactive and supportive way
  • Balancing local business requirements with group priorities

Networking skills
  • Networking skills – manage a broad network of contacts within my own organisation and at key suppliers to deliver better solutions to the business’ needs
  • Building a broad network of key contacts to deliver agreed outcomes
  • Listening to & communicating effectively with people
  • Being customer orientated and selling ideas internally
  • Being self-aware and having high degree of social awareness
Consulting skills
  • Consulting skills – apply a broad range of consulting skills that identify challenges and develop alternative solutions
  • Managing change and change readiness
  • Creative thinking and problem solving
  • Business understanding and strategy alignment
  • Providing insights from analysing spend, market trends and demand
Value creation
  • Value creation – understand how my organisation makes money and where I can help to create additional value
  • Showing entrepreneurial zeal to identify additional value in all things
  • Being inquisitive, willing to challenge norms & not always be popular
  • Structured and disciplined approach to identifying new options
  • Help build and manage a multi-year pipeline of projects
Strategic procurement skills
  • Strategic procurement skillsshare procurement expertise and able to join the dots up between Procurement and its business stakeholders
  • Bringing external insight, benchmarking and third-party innovation
  • Applying holistic procurement expertise, knowledge and experience
  • Being aware of and implementing the latest procurement thinking
  • Act as conduit between Procurement and account team
Business compliance
  • Business compliance – encourage compliance to procurement policy in an effective way that builds commitment rather than resistance from the business
  • Shaping policy, process & procedures and making it relevant to the business
  • Applying project management skills to drive compliance to policy
  • Making it easier for business stakeholders to comply with policies
  • Influencing the continuous improvement of Procurement processes

How to be a successful Procurement Business Partner

Successful procurement business partners have a foot in both the procurement and internal business communities. They tend to be viewed as the “honest broker” seeing the big business picture as well as advising how the procurement team can best support the broader business strategy and objectives through the development of meaningful category and supplier strategies that the business recognise and want. They also become a trusted advisor by holding themselves accountable to the business for promises made i.e. following through on agreed actions and solutions discussed.

How do you measure your success as a business partner?

There are four crucial questions that you should consider and if you can answer them all positively then you should be a success.

  1. Do you bring insight to the business table?
  2. Do you display courage to influence the business and the function?
  3. Do you build and maintain the integrity of the relationships?
  4. Do you take the initiative to co-lead the business?

Further Reading

Blog post: Five steps to better communication with stakeholders

Insight guide: Business partnering role for procurement is crucial says Centrica

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