Successful Procurement and a Strategic Sourcing initiatives are built on strong, collaborative relationships. When organizations let these fall apart - or neglect to build them in the first place - they place serious limits on their capabilities and greatly reduce the chance they'll deliver on their objectives. While there are countless reasons an initiative might stall or stop, poor stakeholder engagement is among the most common. Engaging stakeholders is an essential part of gaining buy-in, sustaining momentum, and ultimately making sourcing excellence a cultural imperative. All too often, however, organizations skip this vital bit of due diligence.
Is your organization taking the time to identify, engage, and empower each and every relevant stakeholder?
Broadly defined, a stakeholder is any person, group, or department with influence over a given spend category. In addition to end users and category owners, the community of stakeholders can include finance departments, executive management, shareholders, customers, and marketing agencies.
Stakeholders play a number of roles throughout the sourcing process. As such, their involvement can often make or break an initiative. In addition to providing their insights into supplier relationships, quality standards, and specifications, they're also often an asset during the negotiations process.
That's why it's so important to engage stakeholders early and often. As a best practice, include them in project kickoff meetings and hold regular interviews. These could yield valuable information regarding failed supplier relationships, common pain points, and untapped areas of opportunity.
Don't forget, there are a number of different stakeholder groups to keep in mind. Each demands their own approach and promises to support initiatives with their own unique perspective. Here's a quick guide to the stakeholders within your business.
The Decision Makers
From finance department to operations managers, your decision makers exert a considerable level of control. It's ultimately their say-so that brings a project to a successful close. Typically, the decision makers offer the most valuable input throughout the sourcing process. After all, it's their particular needs and specifications that your Procurement is trying to meet.
Keeping decision makers in the dark is a huge, all-too-common mistake. When a Procurement team waits until the last moment to engage with decision makers, they often learn they've failed to consider key criteria. In worst case scenarios, weeks and months of work can go to waste and Procurement can find itself alienated from other units within the organization.
In addition to your actual decision makers, it's essential to identify and work alongside any people or departments who can influence a spend category. This isn't always easy. Influencers are diverse, they're often elusive, and they aren't always eager to work alongside Procurement.
Numerous types of people might qualify as influencers. For example, an employee who has transitioned out of a category but still maintains a relationship with a key supplier could qualify. In the non-profit sector, major donors might also fit into this category. An influencer's actual level of influence and interest can vary wildly. Some are eager to participate in initiatives, others are content to let Procurement go about its business. In either case, it never hurts to loop them in.
The End Users
An end user is any person or group of people who feels a direct impact as a result of a particular purchasing decision. Effectively, they are the people who actually leverage the products and services your organization buys. Since these people are affected by the results of your strategic sourcing project, their feedback is indispensable. They'll know very well, for example, whether or not an alternate product and service will gel with existing workflows.
On the surface, the end user's role can look insignificant. It is imperative, however, that they have a voice and visibility throughout the life of an initiative. They're the ones who'll have to live with the decisions you make, it goes without saying that their input is essential.
If nothing else, bringing stakeholders into the sourcing cycle is an effective good will gesture. When they're treated as valued allies, stakeholders will feel compelled to treat Procurement the same.