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Procurement Transformation In A Post-Pandemic World

In this new article series, PASA will report on several sessions from its 9TH Annual Premier ConfeX, which took place on the 13th and 14th October 2021. The two-day virtual conference brought procurement leaders from across the ANZ region together to discuss the topic of transforming procurement.

The disruption caused by COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity for procurement transformation – but is the profession truly going to grasp that? Event speakers explored the ways in which the profession has got to change, and how dramatically, to be able to fulfill its future ambitions and secure that longed-for seat at the table.

Jonathan Dutton, PASA’s Chief Executive, kicked off proceedings by introducing the topic of transformation. He believes procurement must change in order to succeed in a post-pandemic world. In March and April 2020, PASA was holding weekly and informative CPO roundtables which made it easy to track how the profession was responding to the pandemic across multiple organisations. It was evident, for example, that many procurement teams were shifting their priorities away from cost reduction to focus on risk – particularly at the start of the crisis.

A particular story from this period really stuck with Jonathan. A CPO and regular roundtable attendee had openly discussed how his organisation was quickly and dramatically adapting to the changes brought about by COVID-19. After a few weeks, he was joined by one of his principal internal stakeholders. Achieving stakeholder buy-in has long been one of the key challenges facing procurement so it was a rare privilege to hear directly from someone who was speaking in support of their CPO.

Jonathan was interested to know how procurement had changed in the few months since the outbreak of the pandemic

“They’ve shown a real sense of urgency and they’ve never done that before,” the CPO responded. “They’ve demonstrated how to get legendary things done in just a few days. But more than that, they’ve been a pathfinder. They’ve shown us the way through the process, through the red tape and identified what really matters and what really doesn’t.”

At a time when organisations have needed to source new products and services with urgency, it has been wonderful for stakeholders to see procurement teams align themselves so closely with business needs, to cut through processes, and to get things done. “We’ve greatly enjoyed it, and it’s been a revelation.”

Jonathan believes that the main challenge for procurement in the future will be to maintain these levels of efficiency and reliability. “Imagine what will happen in a few months’ time if procurement teams revert back to quoting nine months, 12 months, or even longer for a big sourcing project to their internal stakeholders,” he says. “You’ll need to be ready for that stakeholder to turn round to you and question why you were able to do something in three days at the start of the pandemic but it will take nine months to do so now.”

“And there, I think, is the challenge for procurement,” Jonathan continues. “Procurement has got to transform itself to be able to contribute at the level the business now increasingly expects and to give ourselves the capabilities that will match our long-term goals.”

Part two of this series will feature highlights from a session by Tarandeep Singh Ahaju – Partner, Procurement – McKinsey, who discussed the five themes that will help procurement transform in the future.

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