Procurement – The ONLY Accidental Profession Left in the 21st Century

by Omid Ghamami

During the last 27 years, I’ve asked well over 30,000 people in our profession (which includes at conference keynotes), the same exact question:

“How many of you planned on being in this profession, coming out of high school — and then pursued an education in procurement and obtained a job in procurement, as originally planned coming out of high school?”

Out of 30K+ procurement professionals in 29 countries over a 27 year period, how many do you think have raised their hand and said “Yes, I planned to be in this profession from the beginning”? 

Before I answer this question, I want you to think about how people plan for other business professions.  People plan to be in accounting, marketing, real estate, insurance, finance, operations, IT, etc. 

All of these professions are filled to the brim with people who architected a plan to get there.  It’s the norm, in fact.  When was the last time you heard of someone studying HR in college and then getting a job in manufacturing?  Or someone studying accounting but ending up in marketing?

But that’s exactly what’s been happening in procurement since the inception of the profession.  Do you think people in procurement all started their careers with a procurement education and a master plan?  Think again.

If we’re lucky, they came in with degrees in business, economics, or engineering (highly useful in some procurement jobs).   I’ve found the rare few who think they studied procurement often mostly studied logistics.

We’re not that luckily in most cases though.  More likely is they came in with something unrelated, from history to political science to sociology to physical education.  I’ve seen it all. 

I’m sure some people will respond to this blog stating how they did in fact plan to be in this profession.  I’ll challenge you and demonstrate that procurement came to you, not the other way around.  Unless you are in an incredible minority, you landed in procurement by accident.  We all did.

Here it is: Out of 30K people in 29 countries over 27 years, I’ve found only FOUR (4) people who planned to be in this profession.  Four.  Wrap your mind around that for a second.  Nobody plans to be in procurement.

We all landed in procurement by accident.  All of us.  Procurement is a profession that is 99.99% comprised of people who didn’t plan to be in procurement.  Wrap your head around that. 

And as a consequence, you were trained by someone who landed in procurement by accident.  And that person thought they had 20 years’ experience, but its more likely that they only had 1 year experience, 20 times.

And just as impactful, as you sit there reading this, stop and think about at your management chain.  You eventually report to someone who doesn’t understand procurement.  I dare you to prove me wrong. 

Here’s what happens:  The CEO, CFO, or COO gets a report that announces the procurement department saved $526.8M in the last fiscal cycle for the company.  The C-Suite executive then says “That’s great, but where is all this savings?  Show me the money.  Where is it?  I could use it.  I don’t have it sitting around in my budget, that’s for sure.” 

And from there on out, the C-Suite exec views procurement with great skepticism.  It’s all monopoly money to them, like their child’s imaginary friend.  And so they seek to hide procurement under some overhead function and they don’t want to hear about it again. 

And so procurement reports into all kinds of strange places.   The legal department, finance, accounting, operations, manufacturing, site services, and so on.

I thought I had heard everything until I found a large company that has procurement reporting into the HR function.  I asked them how in the world they came up with that idea.  They confidently proclaimed
“Well, HR buys people, so they should buy everything else too.”  I should be hearing this in 2021. 

We have to all come together and create a procurement pipeline that starts in high school.  An awareness that up to 80% of a company’s revenue goes straight back through procurement, and that a procurement dollar saved has far more impact to EBIT than a sales dollar generated. 

We need to stop being viewed as a back office overhead function, and we need to be and be perceived as being a Value Added Center of Profit inside the company.  Use your leadership role to help bring this to fruition.

Now go off and do something wonderful.

Be your best!

Omid G.

“THE Godfather of Negotiation Planning”  ~ Intel Corp

P.S. almost 50% of the Fortune 100 have now invested in the CPSCM™ Certification – the only certification in the world where you can see the materials and hear your personal instructor’s voice throughout. If you want to learn the end to end basic of procurement and negotiations, there are lots of certifications out there and you should pursue them.

If you want to do a deep dive on transforming your career and your procurement department, we are here for you. Taking costs out of the supply chain, achieving 18% savings on average before negotiations ever start, rearchitecting your negotiation strategies to be away from the table instead of at the table, writing contracts for performance results instead of goods & services, and securing procurement with a hard seat at the table. That’s what we do.

Join the revolution.

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