During the first week of April, five members of the Source One team visited the University of Scranton (“Scranton”) to present, answer questions, and interview potential candidates to join our procurement consultancy. While the goal was to provide students valuable insights about our business and in the industry in general, it was equally apparent that sourcing and procurement are not often discussed within the confines of a classroom.
The relationship between Source One and Scranton began in 2003, when the now-current Vice President of Professional Services, Joe Payne, joined the team. Fast forward 13 years, Source One has interviewed countless Scranton students and graduates, and employed numerous others. Presently, Scranton graduates hold positions as directors, managers, and analysts, and work to sustain and grow the core of Source One’s business. While the industry has evolved and the tools required have changed from when Joe joined the Source One team, Scranton has remained consistent in their ability to train and equip graduates with the skills required to succeed in an analysis and strategy driven environment.
Much has been said about the place millennials occupy in the workplace, but it is undeniable that the proportion of millennials in the workforce continues to grow daily, and that they bring skills and perspectives seldom seen in the generations prior.
Through candid conversations with the students, Source One was able to effectively communicate the core of our business model, and further define terms such as “strategic sourcing” and “procurement.” As many students graduate into the workforce, they are armed with a variety of skills that their future employees can utilize and shape. Along with a formal education and exposure to a variety of business tools, graduates typically have grand aspirations (rightfully so) and expectations that their career will be one that truly makes a difference.
We were also able to learn about current student opinions for various industries, as well as their specific attitudes toward procurement and strategic sourcing. Some common themes emerged, in particular we were surprised about the lack of a comprehensive understanding for procurement, and how that unfamiliarity has the potential to harm the industry moving forward.
Procurement as a brand is in crisis and desperately needs positive PR.
In many circles, procurement can be seen as the enemy. Sales people, marketers, manufacturers, and more maintain the notion that procurement is the enemy, and that procurement professionals exist solely to reduce the value a third party is able to achieve. While this may be true for some procurement institutions, procurement can be, and should be, more concerned with value generation. In some cases, value may be created through pricing negotiations, but in others there may be an emphasis on enhancing a scope and finding a more capable supplier that comes with an added cost.
For many students, procurement and supply chain evoke feelings of direct materials. While there is certainly a supply chain for direct materials that is critical to manage, informing students that their seemingly unrelated majors of finance, accounting, marketing, HR, and more all have associated supply chains is a critical first step in understanding the value created through the function.
Procurement and supply chain classes may only exist buried deep into ERP or OIM curriculums, and many students may be unaware of the function in general. However, the business landscape at large is evolving, with CFOs and finance teams placing increased emphasis on the value and optimization of individual supply chains. Being unaware of such a role, or viewing the role as simply “purchasing” are damaging the field, and creates a shortage of young professionals looking to enter the industry and encourage change as a specialized sourcing individual. A procurement role allows individuals to not only hone their skills in a particular area, but also teaches critical management, strategy, and financial skills (to name a few) that may not be present in more focused roles.
While procurement and sourcing teams are growing in popularity due to their ability to drive additional value, new entrants to the workforce are largely unaware, apathetic, or even fearful of procurement role. Procurement is a brand in crisis, and desperately needs positive PR. Employees need to be informed about the positive attributes of procurement, and current sourcing teams need to ensure they make all reasonable efforts to not perpetuate the stereotypes of old practices, and remain vigilant of opportunities to further demonstrate benefit.
In closing, procurement provides valuable skills that are not easily taught and learned in similar roles. Focusing on a particular subset of business is important and encourages subject matter expertise, but when coupled with procurement skills, an employee is encouraged to view a business holistically while becoming better equipped for success in more senior roles.