It’s clear from the title that I’m a football fan. But besides enjoying the sport, I’m often caught up in the strategies and formation adjustments that top coaches devise.

So I’ve decided to indulge myself and bring these two worlds together, because I’ve found interesting similarities and opportunities for improvement in procurement practices by using football analogies. And because I wanted to know the answer to where are the Messis and Ronaldos in procurement departments?

Let’s get started with the ideal basic formation in procurement:

MIDFIELD

The way I see it, and I’ve been on the procurement field for almost 20 years, most procurement departments are playing only midfield. There is no defense and definitely no offense going on. Let me explain. What I mean by midfield are departments only focusing on COST reduction or avoidance. Strictly operational, no World Cup aspirations, we’re just getting through the season. And every field practice is just repeating the same old drills. It becomes perfectly clear, even to a person who hasn’t watched a football game in their life, that you can’t play, let alone win any games, if you just have a few players at the center of the field. They might as well be mowing the lawn on the field, because they are certainly not playing Champion’s League worth football. Even Luka Modrić couldn’t do it by himself.

Before we can move on to offense, we have to strengthen the midfield. And in procurement that is done with a strike on three fronts – digitalization, structured Category Management and raising strategic competences. Those three fronts are naturally complemented in strategic tools that are able to discipline and introduce analytically sound data that you pass to your striker for the winning goal.

OFFENSE

So what do Ronaldo, Messi, Lewandowski ultimately do? They are in the VALUE creation business. And what is that in procurement? That’s relationship-building Supplier Management that is able to drive innovations beneficial for everyone in the team. Nobody makes their own stuff anymore. Everyone has to rely on suppliers and their expertise. In that respect, it seems incredible that some procurement players would rather choose to foul suppliers consistently, earning red cards left and right. Why would you foul someone who can be on your team and you can create something exciting for the audience? The audience doesn’t care about tough negotiations, but they do care about goals and great new products and services.

DEFENSE

If your goalpost is constantly full that you hardly have the time to recover, it probably means you need to work on your defense. In procurement defense means RISK Management. And it means that commodity price fluctuations, currency issues, political upheavals, etc. are as far away from your goal as possible and that you are prepared for any opponent. Most procurement departments get shocked at all the goals, but then simply get back to midfield and hope that something doesn’t strike. But the teams that care about their defense – they incorporate a system of risk mitigation for all their key categories and suppliers. That way Suarez can’t bite your ear and score a goal, leaving you bloody and defeated.

CPO – A Strategic Coach

And finally, who should know that a team can’t play just the midfield? That’s the CPO’s mission. An experienced leader who sees all the angles and is able to transform procurement, cooperate with management and internal clients and to drive the team into the future with digital breakthroughs. Someone who knows the game inside out, who is Zinedine Zidane to their team and is willing and able to envision that trophy at the beginning of each season.

So, how do you make a World Cup procurement team?

First off, expand your game. Midfield is important, but unless you have nothing but long-rangers on your team, you’re going to need the strategic back-up of a supplier managing offense that is value-driven and risk managing defense that keeps your goalpost untouchable.

It’s an exciting game to play, especially if you’re at the top level.

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