Mission Impossible: Adding Capacity to Procurement without Expanding the Team

Simon Dadswell
Simon Dadswell,
To say Procurement teams today are busy is an understatement. Between high expectations from the c-suite, ambitious cost savings and innovation goals, potential supply disruptions and noncompliant suppliers, teams have a lot on their plates. As procurement’s scope of responsibility grows, it can be challenging for teams that stay the same size to keep up with mile long to-do lists and simultaneously find the time to be a strategic partner for the business. 
If you’re feeling this strain, you’re not alone. In our recent survey of retail, grocery and food service procurement professionals, we found 58 percent of teams have stayed approximately the same in size over the past three years. All the while, 44 percent of respondents indicated gaps in their team’s sourcing and procurement expertise as their biggest internal challenge that held them back from achieving their unique goals. 
Where are the biggest gaps in procurement talent today? We found data and analytical skills and financial knowledge to be the top two in-demand skill sets for procurement professionals:
  • Data and analytical skills (54%)
  • Financial knowledge (41%)
  • Innovation and collaboration (37%)
  • Negotiation skills (40%)
  • Category expertise (41%)
  • Supplier relationships (43%)
These findings show the responsibilities of procurement continue to evolve as needs of organisations change and that it takes a well-rounded team with a variety of skill sets and knowledge to be successful in today’s dynamic landscape. While hiring more staff to fill in these gaps might seem like the most logical solution, adding people to your team takes time, training and more budget, which is not often a viable option for teams already strapped for capacity.
Partnering with external experts can help internal Procurement teams get around this challenge – 47 percent of survey respondents indicated they chose to partner with a strategic vendor to overcome issues of limited staff capacity, while 26 percent chose to work with a partner due to a lack of internal expertise in certain categories. Of those who used an external sourcing partner, those noting major skills gaps dropped to 26 percent and more than half reported they stayed the same size over the past three years because they could use their external partner for additional support. 
These results highlight the major benefits Procurement teams can reap when looking to an external partner for support. Like many members of the internal team, these partners have the resources and expertise to help define product specifications, determine which categories to take to auction and which suppliers to invite to bid, which extends in-house buying expertise for both direct and indirect spend across multiple categories. This allows Procurement teams to fill in skills and knowledge gaps without having to facilitate additional employee training or hire more workers. By working side-by-side with external experts, procurement organisations can seamlessly augment their team and get the support they need, with little time and investment on their part.
Talent is key for procurement’s future. Strong talent directly contributes to value creation, performance and competitive advantage, and the business’s knowledge of products, processes and partners within the supply base, which are all critical components for long-term business success. As procurement’s responsibilities continue to evolve, it’s important for teams to build internal capacity and open themselves up to focus on innovation and moving the needle forward in other strategic areas of the business.  

Download the Retail Market Report or Restaurant Market Report to learn more about the biggest gaps in retail and restaurant procurement today.