Guest Article – Spinning Plates Or Picking Up The Pieces? The Challenge Facing Procurement Professionals

Guest Article – Spinning Plates Or Picking Up The Pieces? The Challenge Facing Procurement Professionals

The Procurement task is pretty straightforward, for a focused, intelligent and engaging professional.

Despite what you read in the job brief or the role description, and regardless of how complex your company tries to make the task sound, let me paraphrase it for you.

Your job is to identify, engage, and manage the best available suppliers, in order to meet or exceed your company’s appetite for external goods and services, as effectively as possible, with the minimum exposure to risk, and to do so better than your company’s competitors.

In doing so, you need to build and continuously develop solid and bilateral relations with your stakeholder colleagues, you need to ensure that your company benefits from market and process innovations, and you need to have the utmost regard for your company’s sustainability objectives.

Finally, whilst practising and honing your skills as a leader and a colleague, you also need to identify and develop your successor.

There. How hard is that?

Well the procurement scientists in the big consultancies will declare that view ‘superficial’, and, of course, ‘the genius is in the detail’, of which there is a considerable amount in the procurement role!

However, in your new role, or new company, just define your strategy to ensure that it meets the company’s goals, build a plan to deliver the strategy, and implement, coping with the normal managerial ambiguity, challenge, and fluidity, as you go.

Why are so many procurement professionals still missing some of the fundamentals, failing to build enough momentum, falling short on competitive edge, missing out on innovations, exposing their companies to undue risk, and failing to win a seat at the top table, to use that hackneyed old cliché?

The answer has been a mystery to me throughout my practitioner and consulting careers, but I think the penny has dropped.

Procurement is about managing multiple challenges and resources, all the time, about spinning as many plates as you can handle, and about continuing to challenge existing practice.

Those who fail, or those who fail to excel, just do not push hard enough, just do not use their intellect and experience to see past the most recent and most pressing urgency. Others become hooked on adopting core systems and practises that inhibit their momentum.

Think of any winning team – a sporting analogy works for most people – and think about the way in which the team leader has to continually experiment with new or modified tactics, to deliver their strategy and ensure that they stay on top and win – think of Mercedes’ recent success, or of some of the stellar achievements in the recent athletics events.

Doing what you or the company has always done is too conservative and pedestrian; slavishly following precedent and history is not enough.

Take the example of our business, where many years’ success as a pure-play procurement consultancy has served us, and more importantly our clients, well – we have numerous examples of companies and procurement people who have prospered under our process expertise, application guidance and outstanding delivery, achieved through the growth of their capabilities and behaviours.

We saw a shift in the market though, and concluded that having all our eggs in the same basket was not enough for the future.

Just like you, we dislike paying money up-front for a service that may or may not bring us a benefit.

Just like you, we get frustrated when we have to pay suppliers’ prices that may or may not be the best we can achieve – but we don’t really know.

And just like you, suppliers who fall short on their promises, exasperate us.

That is why we have applied our expertise in procurement, and our knowledge of supply markets to develop an additional service from our new company, Purchasing-Expert Limited (P-E), to provide a cash-positive, risk-free service, to help our clients focus on the big-ticket items, with confidence that they have delegated a cost-saving task to experts with long experience and success in their field.

P-E takes the burden of managing suppliers for value and cost-effectiveness away from the client, drives savings, without any adverse impact on quality, service or reputation, and provides the client with the benefits.

We recently worked with one client to reduce their business and IT consumables spend of £18,000 by around 30% per annum…then we spotted that their field service engineers were spending the same amount of money on the same type of items…we found 50% savings there too, reduced risk, and improved quality.

One less spinning plate for the client to worry about!

As a procurement professional, you too should be thinking about how well your strategy fits with today’s environment.

One client with whom we have just developed a global strategy to take them towards 2020, told us that he and his team had found our guidance and counsel through the process to be invaluable, and that they could not have done so without us.

We throw down the challenge to all procurement leaders to test whether their strategy is good enough, and whether they are spinning enough of the right plates.

Iain Stewart – December 2014

Iain is a Director of 105 Consulting Limited and Purchasing-Expert Limited          


Spend Matters Article – Clarity and Expectations in Recruitment (Part 2)

Spend Matters Article – Clarity and Expectations in Recruitment (Part 2)

This article was published on on 3rd December.

We are delighted to bring you the second part of a first-hand look into The Chasm Separating Companies from Good Candidates from Peter Brophy at Edbury Daley. Yesterday he talked about expectations of new roles or new recruits.

How we treat people through the recruitment process

In recent years many organisations have invested heavily in creating talent pools or have used agencies to source ‘difficult to find’ candidates at short notice but rarely then consider what happens once the candidate has been approached and enters the ‘assessment phase.’

In the current market many candidates complain of roles not materialising or long delays in the process and often question whether a role was real in the first place or was a benchmarking exercise against existing internal candidates.

Candidates’ perception of an organisation’s brand is often negatively impacted by their recruitment experience. To understand, Edbury Daley has recently instigated some timely research to investigate this by gaining feedback from candidates to a ‘typical’ corporate recruitment process – you can see the survey here. Once this research is complete we will publish and share it, so watch out for a further post.

The negative impact on your brand perception caused by poor processes or lack of feedback or poor communication should not be underestimated; candidates are potential clients or customers. They also talk to each other about their experiences so word gets around the market.

The challenge is that often recruitment has been re-organised during the recession to focus on transactional metrics such as time to hire and cost per hire to fill headcount slots quickly rather than consider the value that securing a better candidate could bring or the cost of getting it wrong (both hard to measure).

Now as the market improves good candidates are actively choosing roles based on their recruitment experience as much as the role itself or the organisation. To many candidates, their actual experience quite correctly is of the organisation in reality, in action, and laid bare, rather than the generic snappy careers site’s words about engagement, opportunities and being a great place to work.

As a job hunter myself earlier in the year I often found that the standard of service and communication from organisations was often poor and sporadic. It made me wonder what the reality is for many candidates at more junior levels?

The following are some personal examples I experienced:

  • An organisation took so long to recruit for a maternity cover role that in the end it wasn’t worth bringing someone in
  • Arriving for an 8am meeting to be told ‘something urgent’ had cropped up and only being able to meet with a more junior person. I could see the person in the office sat at their desk reading something. What annoyed me was not that this happened because these things do happen but if someone has put themselves out treat them with some respect. For me 30 seconds to say sorry and I would have been happy or at least understood. I didn’t go back.
  • Think carefully about who interviews and how prepared they are. I was interviewed on many occasions by more junior people or by people who weren’t prepared, so they didn’t know what to ask or fully understand the context. For some of the junior people I could have made it up as I went along whereas a more capable interviewer would spot any inconsistencies.
  • Lack of feedback – often poor and incomplete and I had to chase and chase on many occasions. If a candidate has taken half day to travel is it acceptable to be told very little specific feedback? If given the right feedback in full they are more likely to advocate your organisation to their network.

Many of these may only be small things but they add up, and if a candidate has no other option your process may still secure them, but increasingly you need the process to be quick, professional and to sell the organisation as well as let the candidate meet some key people.

As reported in our recent Quarterly Market Update the market is improving and good candidates are becoming increasingly harder to attract and hire so this is becoming increasingly critical for organisations to get right.

Your recruitment process needs to be well organised and to consider the candidates if you wish to source the best candidates and to ensure that those unsuccessful feel they have been fairly considered, met some good people who sold the organisation well and that they got some good feedback. –

See more at:

Spend Matters Article – Clarity and Expectations in Recruitment (Part 1)

Spend Matters Article – Clarity and Expectations in Recruitment (Part 1)

Here’s Peter Brophy’s  article which was published on on December 2nd.

The Chasm Separating Companies from Good Candidates

Following on from his recent article “Confessions of a Procurement Recruitment Specialist – An Insider’s Experience” part 1 and part 2, Peter Brophy of procurement recruitment firm Edbury Daley, highlights some areas where both organisations and the recruiters that represent them can improve the chances of finding the right candidate who has a good experience during the recruitment process.

Peter has been recruiting Procurement Professionals for over ten years; his experience spans a number of sectors including aerospace, engineering, manufacturing, professional services and corporate functions such as HR, finance as well as procurement. He is well placed to give us a first-hand view of the process.

There are two parts to this:

  • The expectations and specification of the role (the new recruit)
  • How we treat people during the process

We’ll discuss the first part here and follow up with the second tomorrow.

Expectations of new roles or new recruits

In my experience both as a recruiter and a candidate, job adverts and job specifications are increasingly described in terms that elevate each role to an incomprehensible level of unrealistic requirements. I call this the ‘superman requirement’ as only such a person could ever match the brief.

I wonder whether anyone is taking a reality check on this as it deters many capable people from applying. Yes we need to sell a job to a candidate but I advise that we reflect on the day-to-day aspects of the job not just what we would like it to be – yes be realistic and use plain English that is understood by those outside the organisation.

Ask: does such a perfect person does exist? Can we really recruit someone who meets all of our requirements at the salary level we can afford? Or worse, do you recruit a person who knows the key words and phrases rather than the best person who isn’t as good at selling themselves?

This is a problem most recruiters know too well and when we do find this ‘superman’ candidate they often tend to be looking for a role and salary at the next level. In my experience most people move from a company to get additional responsibility and development. They rarely move to something which repeats their current role (other than after redundancy) unless there is a salary increase, so if you recruit externally it is likely to cost you more than you would benchmark it internally.

Additionally another problem of over specifying a role results in someone being recruited who has unrealistic expectations which will not be met. What happens? They get bored and de-motivated and leave and you have to recruit again!

We all fall into the trap of making jobs sounds exciting and with great career progression but with flat organisations more the norm, then clearly this isn’t going to be possible for all your staff and will impact on turnover and morale.

We promise something that doesn’t exist … –

See more at:

How Do Recruitment Processes Impact On The Battle For Procurement Talent?

How Do Recruitment Processes Impact On The Battle For Procurement Talent?

At Edbury Daley we are instigating some timely new research on the choice of recruitment and selection methods and the impact of those choices on the success rate of a getting  quality recruits in to a hiring business.

As the global economy recovers many companies are pursuing significant growth plans. Often, the key constraining factor is the ability to hire and retain the skills and expertise needed. Employer Branding and Talent Communities are becoming the new parlance of Human Resource Management as bigger corporations embrace the advent of social media to gain an advantage in finding the people they need. This is covered in some detail in a very interesting recent study by Deloitte.

The creation of talent pipelines and new employee engagement techniques are pushing the boundaries of traditional recruitment practice but their success is reliant on the conversion of the initial engagement in to a hire. In other words, they only bring candidates to the start line of the selection process. How a company interacts from this point onwards determines whether the candidate ever crosses the finish line and joins the hiring company.  Our survey is designed to investigate this second stage of recruitment process.

Candidate facing, the questions have been written to test attitudes and experience towards the mechanics of a typical corporate recruitment process. With companies investing heavily in cutting edge talent attraction strategies, this survey is about what happens next; how candidates respond to companies’ selection procedures.

To complete the survey simply think only of your experiences and responses as a candidate. There are just twelve carefully designed multiple choice questions.

The data gathered will be used to formulate a robust framework for a recruitment process which all corporate organisations can use as a benchmark for best practice. As a participant you will automatically have the chance to win one of three free career consultations with Peter Brophy, a qualified HR professional and one of our Directors.

The survey features twelve multiple choice questions and will only take a short time to complete.  The questions are here:

How Do Recruitment Processes Impact On The Battle For Procurement Talent?

If you are a hiring manager you can request a copy of our analysis by e mailing Andrew Daley at

If you would like to discuss any aspect of recruitment best practice, please contact the author of this survey, Simon Edbury via


Q2 2014 Procurement Market Update Featuring The Indirect Spend Index

Q2 2014 Procurement Market Update Featuring The Indirect Spend Index

Our report on the job market conditions for procurement professionals and associated markets in the second quarter of 2014 features some interesting and largely positive developments.  Whether you read this with the mindset of a hiring manager or with an eye on your own career, this analysis provides very informative reading.  Headlines include:

  • We are seeing some classic symptoms of a recovering job market for the procurement profession.
  • Technology remains the most sought after area of indirect spend category expertise.
  • The Spend Management Technology market continues to grow rapidly.
  • Consultancies face challenges around balancing resources.

The full report is available here: Q2 2014 Procurement Market Update Featuring The Indirect Spend Index