The Prognosticators Series: 2013 Predictions by Kelly Barner

Posted on January 4, 2013

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Editor’s Note:  As is often the case when the hands of time tick relentlessly forward into another new year, we take this opportunity to look ahead to what the next 12 months might hold in store for us both personally as well as for the purchasing industry as a whole.

In this the first installment of our 2013 Prognosticators Series, in which we will call upon the Procurement Insights’ guest columnists to share their insights and expertise, Buyers Meeting Point’s Kelly Barner will tell us what we should look for in the year ahead.

PI 2013 prediction image

I’m not a big New Year’s resolution person, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t stop every year at this time to think about what the coming year will hold. None of us can predict the future, but we can focus on what we HOPE it will hold – and here is what I wish for the purchasing and procurement community in the coming year:

In 2013, we will face our fears.

For each of us there is at least one bogeyman that we avoid dealing with. A bullying stakeholder, a daunting software solution, or a ‘sacred cow’ category of spend that we know we could streamline if we could just get our hands on it.

It is true that we need to make the decision to push ahead, our fears be damned, but we don’t have to go it alone. Many organizations have just started on a new budget cycle, so if there are ever going to be extra resources to work with, it is now. Bringing in a consultant, schedule an extra training session, or arrange a procurement open house where you can try to break down walls with colleagues in other parts of the organization.

Whether money is needed or not, nothing is going to change without a plan. Ask yourself what you’ve been avoiding (we all have something in that category) and force yourself to admit why. Come up with a plan to make progress, and make sure that the first few steps are small and achievable. Once you get rolling, it will be that much easier to keep going. Hopefully you’ll come to realize that your bogeyman isn’t as scary as you thought.

In 2013 we will connect.

Social media sites and professional associations can be incredibly powerful tools for getting our current jobs done. Admittedly, there is little spare time to wade through the noise to find valuable content and knowledgeable colleagues. That being said, we are facing challenges today that are too big for us to tackle alone. Realize it or not, you are part of a huge, experienced community – and all you have to do to get help is to ask.

Maybe it is the typical personality in procurement, or maybe it is our historical reliance on keeping our mouths shut about what we’re working on, but our reluctance to interact more often may have cost us rewarding professional connections and opportunities to improve our performance. For too long we have kept our noses to the grindstone, working very hard to solve immense challenges with minimal resources. The time has come to pick up our heads and see the other members of our community as a way to make progress.

LinkedIn is the natural place to start. Join a group, post or ask a question in the Answers forum, or look for others that are facing similar challenges. If you are hesitant to share corporate information online, you can connect with someone and then propose a quick phone call. I have repeatedly been amazed at the positive, productive interaction that is possible with virtual strangers who share a common goal. If you have more time, seek out a local professional association. If you rally others from your team to join with you, you’ll be that much more likely to attend meetings.

In 2013 we will get our groove back.

We didn’t all set our sites on a career in procurement when we were young, or even in college or grad school. But now we are here, and we owe it to our companies and ourselves to renew our commitment to the function. Question: Do you LIKE working in procurement? If your answer is no, you can imagine my advice. But if your answer is yes, the start of a new year is a great time to remember why and then get back to it.

We’ve spent too much time over the last year or so worrying about what Finance or AP or Operations thinks of us and not enough time doing what we do best and enjoying it. Obviously, we have to meet the expectations our organizations have of us, but if we are doing good work and can prove it with positive results, both quantitative and qualitative, “they” will come around. They simply won’t have a choice.

We are good negotiators. We like getting into a category and ripping it up and putting it back together better than we found it. We can find out why a package costs so much, how a contract for facilities services should be structured and that there is a new substitute for an old component that is cheaper, better, and greener. Procurement is a cool place to work. Remind yourself to swagger just a little as you enter that next meeting – you’ve earned it.

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