In my experience in consulting getting the right buy-in and support from our decision makers can be as much work as actually executing the sourcing projects. While it encompasses a lot of work, the return is well worth it if we can get alignment early on and demonstrate value in the procurement or sourcing process. Without that buy-in we find ourselves constantly pushing a boulder uphill, both ways, in the snow, trying to navigate the supply base while convincing the decision makers this is the right thing to do for the business’ sake.
Again, this is not at all unfamiliar to the procurement and strategic sourcing teams we encounter within our clients’ organizations. In fact, they have to work that much harder to get their stakeholders aligned. This is a shame really because you would think that as colleagues all marching towards the same business objectives they would want to work together to achieve them. Sadly, that’s just not the case.
So, what does a good sponsor “look” like?
• They are on the same level. A good sponsor of the procurement process is one that understands the value that Procurement can bring through market intelligence, strategic sourcing best practices, and continuous supplier management.
• They understand the business. In order to make solid business decisions, whether in procurement, a specific business unit, or on behalf of the organization, they need to have a good understanding of what drives the business to succeed.
• They are lenient. This one might sound a little off, but a sponsor that understands that even the most astute application of best practices sometimes lands you in a different place than planned does not mean that all is lost. Meaning perhaps you didn’t quite achieve the savings or quality improvement you expected, but that does not mean the process was not worth the effort.
• They are agile. This goes along with the previous trait. The process is going to take twists and turns and the end result may be shocking to all involved. A good sponsor can adapt quickly and support building a different solution than anticipated.
All of these traits go along with being a good procurement resource and having the right engagement plan to manage to. This means being able to mimic these traits and provide the decision support that a good sponsor needs. When you can effectively pair a good procurement person (or team) with a good sponsor, the chance of success is higher because they can facilitate an effective process, make decisions quickly, and create a true partnership to deliver solid results to the business.