As part of the Communications and IT (CIT) team at Source One, I am continually looking to grow our team of sourcing analysts and consultants to support the growing IT and Telecom needs of our clients and prospects. Many of the resumes I’ve reviewed in the past are focused on service delivery, implementation support, technical or functional consulting, and coding/development experience – which is all well and good from an experience standpoint – but does not always translate into a strong candidate for a Procurement & Strategic Sourcing position.
As I’ve been working on a podcast about the convergence of IT and Procurement groups, I’ve thought through many similarities between why it may be difficult to get these groups to work together and why it may be difficult for Procurement teams to find experienced candidates within IT sourcing:
Evolution of IT and Procurement
As IT has traditionally been left to its own devices in terms of selecting vendors, services, and products, so too has the Procurement function developed independent of IT. Traditional Procurement has rarely established itself as a partner for IT and IT groups rarely have enough bandwidth to employ sourcing, category management, and supplier management practices, therefore there is no natural overlap that builds strong IT sourcing professionals. We end up with a group of Procurement practitioners that are inexperienced (and/or completely uninterested in IT), and a group of IT practitioners focused on service delivery without the skills to excel within Procurement-based management methodologies.
The Complexity Hurdle
For more technical categories, there tends to be a perception that Procurement adds little value because they can’t speak the same language, they don’t understand the technology, or they will simply focus on cutting costs without understanding the implications this may have on the service. As a truly supportive Procurement organization, it is important to work with stakeholders and suppliers to understand each category that Procurement manages – IT is no exception. If you have stayed away from IT categories because you don’t consider yourself a “technical” person or if you are leading a Procurement team that has avoided the IT category, some easy ways to start getting up-to-speed specific to your organization’s IT environment are to:
- Review your organization’s IT spend from a GL level perspective, review current contracts in place with the larger suppliers, and start to understand the leading products/services offered by those companies
- Understand the current major systems in place within the organization, e.g. knowing what ERP is in place is usually a good place to start, and start to understand the business processes supported by those systems
- Look for credible industry news and blogs – understanding the supply base and how it changes and adapts is a great place to start building a foundation
- Meet with IT stakeholders to understand their priorities, planned projects, and technology roadmap so that you can understand where the organization is today, along with where it plans to go
Fundamental Skills for a Strong IT Sourcing Professional
The reason that Source One has had such a long period of success across many categories (25 years and counting!), and especially within the CIT team, is that we know what skills translate into a successful Procurement & Strategic Sourcing consultant and have built a team with a strong foundation of skills to support our clients from an IT and Telecom perspective. When looking to expand the Procurement function with staff that is able to effectively serve the IT organization, look for individuals with:
- Sourcing & Negotiations Experience: This may seem obvious, but those with sourcing and negotiation experience under their belt will have a smoother transition into doing so within the IT space, i.e. they may have a subject matter expertise (SME) learning curve to battle, but have experience to draw on from other sourcing events and supplier negotiations and be able to adapt and bolster those skills with the IT space.
- Analytical Skills: Certainly necessary for many areas within the organization, but highly required when looking at complex invoice, service guide, licensing, and contracting structures.
- Research/Aptitude for Learning: Those ready and willing to support the IT organization need to be able to keep up with the changes in the market and with the changes in the organization's priorities and concerns. Look for individuals who have shown that they can research complex areas and those who can demonstrate a clear desire to learn and grow within a category/specialty.
- Strong Interpersonal Skills (but with technical aptitude): Those who do well within Procurement tend to have the ability to build strong relationships as well as have an analytical eye towards those relationships and the categories with which they work. Those who do well working with IT will likely have an added layer of technical aptitude to better understand the “language” of IT stakeholders and have a natural draw to learning more about the technical components of the category, allowing them to be more effective in understand their stakeholders, managing sourcing events, and negotiating with suppliers.
Ultimately, as Procurement organizations get better at increasing their scope and building partnerships within the organization as a whole, the need for Procurement professionals with IT subject matter expertise will only grow. If being in Procurement teaches nothing else, it is that we should expect to continually grow our category understanding and develop strong research and relationship-building skills to expand our SME and develop stronger relationships with stakeholders.
For those you out there that have true IT or Telecom sourcing experience and want to help other organizations bridge the Procurement/IT gap, visit http://www.sourceoneinc.com/contact/contact-source-one/career/ to learn more about joining our team of fellow unicorns!