A former client once told me that I was qualified to be a consultant because:
a) I was from out of town
b) I had a mustache.

I shaved my mustache not long after that. While my friend used humor to communicate one of the stereotypes attached to consultants, most did and still do not make light of the consultant’s presence. A predisposition against consultants is a major factor affecting the success or failure of a “3rd party” engagement. The fact that many procurement consulting engagements are top down driven makes it all the more critical for project teams to identify, address and break through relationship barriers.

It’s been said that “only when the student is ready, can the teacher appear”. Yet, it’s entirely possible that procurement will meet being handed a top-down cost savings initiative, with deep reservations about having its historical results challenged and eventually enhanced. So if the student is anything less than ready, how can the procurement consultant ensure success?

First, the consultant must establish a candid and direct relationship with procurement. It is crucial to address the issue of “legacy” honestly and with compassion. Most every worker is proud of the results they produce. Having their work checked is bound to create discomfort and likely, fear. Since procurement is hired to deliver the best total cost solution, what vested interest would they have to prove that they haven’t done so? The consultant must consider the answer to that question carefully, raise the question honestly and answer it compassionately. Yet the answer is much more than a simple phrase.

The answer is in making procurement an equal partner in a new “legacy”. A major barrier exists between internal and 3rd party resources because of emotional issues such as “legacy”. That barrier will either be strengthened or broken by the degree to which a consultant enlists procurement in the success of the project.

Procurement may also harbor suspicion about the consultant’s desire to deliver a lasting result in a “temporary” engagement. One of the most common reservations of procurement is that the consultant does not have a vested interest in anything but cost savings and thus, will “hitch them up to a nag”. It’s important that the consultant address the “quality and service” issue not just with discussion. The consultant must build a detailed requirement that not only drives the sourcing event, but also enhances the client’s discovery of the supplier base, the qualified products, the service /delivery levels, the R&D backing and the technical support to bolster the transaction.

Another fear that often presents itself is the illusion of “expert” status. This is present in the individual or team that feels their history in sourcing is tantamount to expertise in a given market, category or specific commodity. While breaking through that illusion can be challenging, the results merit the work. This is where the consultant must delicately balance massaging the ego in procurement while delivering the truth about the perils of repeating the same processes with the usual suspects, in a vacuum. The skilled consultant deftly navigates procurement into an enhanced sourcing event much in the same fashion of assuaging the legacy issue, but this time crafting more of a master/apprentice persona for the relationship. By making procurement the ostensible driver of the process, the consultant can successfully enlist their support. It’s best to package the project path as the logical outgrowth of the expert’s expertise.

Numerous other issues arise with any procurement consulting engagement, too many to list here actually. Do you have a question about how to effectively partner with an organization, or an anecdote to share? If so, please send them the Sourcerer. See you next time.
Share To:

Strategic Sourceror

Post A Comment:

0 comments so far,add yours