Skills and characteristics of a successful global procurement manager

Call it ‘purchasing’, ‘procurement’, ‘supply management’ or ‘sourcing’, the role of procurement within organisations is changing significantly. Purchasing departments are, at last, moving from reactive to proactive, responding to management’s demand that they add value to an enterprise rather than retain their traditional role as cost centre.

Consequently, the procurement manager of today needs to be a far different type of individual than in previous years. The characteristics and skills sets required are much broader in scope and much more detailed in their execution.

Eman Abouzeid (CSCP, CIPS), a procurement and supply chain professional with global experience, unpacks the skills that global sourcing professionals should master.

Join us at Smart Procurement World for a keynote presentation from CIPS on the skill sets required of the future procurement professional: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain are rapidly redefining the traditional role of procurement professionals. Simultaneously, organisations require ever-higher standards of corporate governance and social responsibility.

In procurement management, the goal is, generally, to find the best source at the best price. In most corporations that source from foreign markets, the decision-making process is, typically, within the scope of the procurement manager. If this is not the case, the procurement manager will, generally, have significant influence over the options considered as well as over the final business model.

While purchasing domestically is arduous, purchasing internationally is dramatically more complicated, with serious consequences for bad decisions. Accordingly, procurement managers engaged in global sourcing should master the following skill sets:

Be part of the global community:
– Speak foreign languages
– Travel to multiple countries over several days
– Learn about foreign countries’ customs, traditions and etiquette
– Have a basic and, in some cases, more expanded, knowledge of foreign cultural issues

Know the international commercial environment:
– Understand international contract law and international commercial terms (incoterms)
– Master foreign exchange information and remain balanced when this changes on a daily basis
– Understand currency conversion, letters of credit, drafts and other international monetary considerations
– Be an expert on your own laws related to local customs
– Have a basic knowledge of foreign customs regulations, duties, tax and value-added tax implications

Understand logistics and the movement of goods:
– Select the best partners in freight forwarding, carriers, custom-house brokers and other related transportation providers
– Know how ocean carriers work
– Provide information on packing, marking and labelling requirements
– Understand issues that affect global supply chains, such as freight and carrier options, weather patterns, longshoreman actions and warehousing options

Navigate the commercial side:
– Be skilled in contract management, risk management and risk mitigation
– Master negotiation skills and the power of persuasion in order to be a successful influencer: this will enable you to get what you want
– Have strong communication skills (presentation, public speaking, listening and business writing skills) both inside and outside of the organisation: clear communication with all functional and stakeholder groups is essential to success
– Master strong interpersonal skills

Manage your own productivity:
– Manage your time effectively: when you have new projects launching within strict deadlines, you have to prioritise your tasks and divide them into ‘high urgency with high importance’, ‘high urgency with low importance’, ‘low urgency with high importance’ and ‘low urgency with low importance’
– Develop problem-solving skills that are coupled with creative solutions: be an innovator/outside-of-the-box thinker

Understand finance and operations:
– Develop business and financial acumen: this includes an understanding of the finance, accounting and operations of your company as well as the ability to make quick decisions with good judgement
– Have strong attention to detail: you establish credibility when the accuracy of your output is reliably high
– Develop forecasting and strategic planning skills
– Master analytical skills: when evaluating suppliers, analyse their options and then choose the supplier with the best combination of price, quality, delivery, service/other related criteria

Engage with the people in your supply chain:
– Develop customer-focused skills
– Foster team-building skills, such as leadership, decision-making, influencing, staff training and mentoring

Some companies are elevating the position of procurement manager to the highest levels of the corporate ladder as global sourcing becomes ever more critical. It is plain from the above list that executing their role at the required level is going to ask more from procurement professionals than ever before.

But these increased expectations do not sit solely on the leader’s shoulders: it also asks more of the teams.

Traits and characteristics of performer procurers

There is a combination of traits and characteristics that make procurement professionals perform at a benchmark level. A list of such traits/characteristics could include the following:

– Be responsible: procurement professionals are accountable for their decisions thus they need to make decisions that are rational, ethical and in the best interest of their organisation
– Be professional: procurement professionals must reflect and uphold the educational, technical and ethical standards of the procurement profession
– Be effective: procurement managers achieve their objectives by implementing purchasing plans and projects
– Be efficient: procurement managers achieve their objectives with the least possible waste of resources, i.e. money, physical resources, time and effort
– Have integrity: procurement professionals should be honest, trustworthy and reliable
– Be moral: procurement professionals must do what is right and acceptable
– Be compliant: procurement managers need to follow and implement procurement procedures/policies whilst encouraging others to do the same
– Have an entrepreneurial spirit
– Have a sense of intimacy: procurement professionals should have the ability to build and maintain constructive working relationships with suppliers as well as internal, connected and external stakeholder groups
– Be resilient and agile: the manner in which procurement professionals react and adapt to situations will maximise their value and contribution to their organisation
– Have a concern for quality: procurement managers must work very closely with suppliers’ quality assurance departments to ensure quality compliance and conformance to specifications
– Be a functional expert: procurement professionals should have a very thorough knowledge of operations and production processes
– Have a sense of urgency: procurement professionals need to get the job done on time and within the scheduled deadlines
– Be a peacekeeper: procurement professionals work with/directly affect every department within a company; they are the focal point between a company and its external entities. Disagreements and misunderstandings will happen but procurement professionals should be the solution, not the source, of these
– Be adaptable: procurement professionals should remain calm under pressure and handle criticism well
– Be patient
– Be a strategic thinker: procurement managers need to have a long-term plan for success as well as develop and execute an action plan to assess progress towards a particular goal
– Be a supply chain thinker: procurement managers have to think about every aspect of the creation of the final product that they seek to purchase as well as its delivery to their doorstep
– Be results-oriented: procurement professionals must meet strict deadlines, identify actions, and achieve short-term and long-term goals
– Have a willingness to learn new things
– Have an inquisitive mind
– Be collaborative
– Be timely in the decisions that you make
– Have a positive attitude: the manner in which procurement professionals do and say things will directly affect people’s desire to work with them towards an objective
– Be confident in yourself

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