I recently attended and spoke at the 2016 Next Level Purchasing Association's annual conference in Pittsburgh PA. Touted as bringing together some of brightest professionals in procurement, I certainly had high expectations for the events I planned to attend. As if the opportunity to speak on the Evolution of Procurement wasn't exciting enough! Overall, I would say I was not disappointed. I met several great people and enjoyed some excellent speakers.

The theme of the conference was around procurement throughout history. Based on this it was not surprising that several of the speakers, including the keynote speaker Charles Dominick himself, touched on how procurement has evolved over the years both in practice and as a function in general. While each presentation had their own unique takeaways there were certainly some overall points that event goers received throughout the conference. For those of you who could not attend, here are a few that stood out to me....

1.  Tactical to Strategic.
While there are certainly still many tactical facets within the role of procurement, the broader idea is that procurement has become a more strategic function overall. Many Procurement professionals are working towards building their internal brands in this way through business case development, application of industry best practices, and by establishing themselves as a partner to the business. In fact, simply by attending conferences like NLPA these professionals are demonstrating the desire to learn how to better establish themselves.

2.  It's NOT all about cost savings.
I think this was a topic in almost every presentation I had the chance to sit in on. While cost savings is a critical metric, it cannot be the only metric or even the most important one. Defining the right metrics for your particular organization based on your goals and objectives is key in today's business. Without belaboring the metrics topic here, the main point is that having the right metrics in place will tangibly demonstrate the value that procurement drives within the organization.

3.  Resources are at a premium.
Even though procurement is striving to be a business partner, in many cases old thinking still leads the way and treats them as a fully tactical function, and as such does not grant the resources needed to perform the more strategic aspects of the role. I was fortunate enough to connect with a few individuals and the frustrations are similar across the board, "I want to spend more time on strategic elements but I just don't have the time or resources..". It is important in these cases that procurement professionals get creative in finding ways to supplement their resources, either through external support or even through improvements in processes and tools.

Ultimately, I do not think these particular topics are anything earth-shattering or new for that matter. What I think is important is that procurement is focused on how this impacts their role and how they are perceived within the organization. The road of transformation is very long and presents many challenges, but we've come a long way so far so there is only more good to come from consistently and persistently pursuing the change that is needed.

If you attended NLPA, please reach out and let me know what YOU thought about the conference!

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Jennifer Ulrich

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