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What role for procurement: seat at the table or trusted advisor?

At one of our Procurement Roundtable sessions, we sought to find out if procurement teams work best as trusted advisors or with a seat at the table.

Should procurement have a seat at the table? Canopy supplier management
Should procurement have a seat at the table?

Here at Canopy, we're passionate about procurement. That's why we run The Procurement Roundtable, a series of discussions about the most critical topics in procurement and supply chain management. It's a chance for the experts to debate the issues, and benefit from shared learning and common experience. Our roundtables are open for anyone to contribute, and while an expert invited speaker helps set the scene, everyone's opinion counts. In a series of blogs, we will capture some of that experience and learn from previous discussions. First up: should procurement have a seat at the table, or act as a trusted advisor?

Adapt to changing procurement priorities

The starting point for our discussions was the reality that, in different organisations, the role of procurement can have a different remit. Having a fixed view of what procurement does might not be a constructive position to start from. Procurement teams, and the professionals in them, must be agile and adapt to the environment they're working in.

"Make sure that you constantly sense check, reevaluating things as you go along, and recognising the fact that in a dynamic world, things do change from the supply chain perspective." David Loseby, Managing Director at Barkers Consulting

An open mindset helps understand the business challenges and how they might change over time. This is particularly important at a time of rising prices, given that the pressure is usually to manage supply chains to reduce costs.

Having your voice at the table, even if you aren't

Indeed, the roundtable went on to look at what might happen if the procurement voice wasn't quite so welcome. In some instances, the reaction might be that getting on the Board solves everything. But participants agreed that the more important point is to make sure that the procurement voice is there in the room, even without a physical presence. Influencing key stakeholders, and talking about procurement's value proposition within the organisation, is the CPO's ultimate job. So, achieving 'sponsorship' from a board-level executive might be the right approach.

Communicating in the age of virtual meetings

Of course, one challenge to the role of a trusted advisor is the nature of work at most organisations in pandemic times. As all the participants at the roundtable noted, it can be much more difficult to influence, negotiate informally, and network with colleagues in a virtual setting. There's no chance to chat on the way to and from meetings, or face-to-face encounters throughout the working day.

“The first step of doing a communications plan is identifying all the stakeholders… write out the list and then actually test it with other people, it’s fundamental.” Alison Smith, coach, trainer, and author. Helping procurement to think unconventionally.

Now more than ever, having a communications plan is key to maintaining good networks to influence the debate. There is enormous value in using the right language to avoid barriers between procurement teams and other company stakeholders. Targeting the right individuals who have established networks across an organisation will be the best way to maintain influence. Even if you're creating a proxy, there will still be a clear voice for procurement.

A trusted advisor role - but with the right links to the table

Procurement can and should act as a trusted advisor. As procurement and supply-chain experts, the focus is on delivering results, enhancing competitive advantage, and driving innovation.

“I think the realisation from investors and the shareholder community, and the wider organisation, is that procurement can deliver into the value proposition.” David Loseby

Being valued and recognised for what procurement can do to help an organisation achieve its aims might be more important than a seat on the board. And demonstrating that value ensures that you'll have the best links and the right conversations, even if your elbows aren't on the table.

With thanks to our guest speakers (Alison Smith, David Loseby, and Robert Bonnar), and all the other participants in the event.

To find out more about Canopy and our programme of discussions on the biggest topics in procurement, contact one of the team today.

Post by Nick Verkroost

Nick is an experienced business leader and the COO for Canopy (OCG Software), the rules-based Supplier Management platform. Nick's focus is on commercial and operational excellence and ensuring our clients maximise the opportunities that Canopy offers.


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