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PurchasingB2B

Out of the purchasing box

There’s a definite evolution within the purchasing profession, our panelists to agreed, in terms of the skills and knowledge base needed to do the job at the level now required. Gone are the days of purchasers simply filling out forms in a basement office, or of procurement managers and medical staff discussing purchasing equipment needs in a hospital’s hallway.


October 25, 2011
by Michael Power

I remember once an editor I worked with asking me what I’d studied in school. He knew I had a journalism degree that, no doubt, helped me do my job as a reporter. But I told him that I also had a degree in East Asian studies. The admission got a chuckle from my colleague, and he said, “Great, so now you can get a job down at the East Asian studies factory.”

The joke on me, of course, was I had taken a degree that—unlike my sturdy and sensible journalism degree—would not help me one ounce in landing a real-world job. At the time, I saw his point, and the degree never translated into a job with “East Asian studies” in the title. But I also realize the benefits of knowing something outside of one narrow field.

This point was brought up several times by the participants in our virtual roundtable on the future of smart sourcing, which you can read on page 16. There’s a definite evolution within the purchasing profession, our panelists to agreed, in terms of the skills and knowledge base needed to do the job at the level now required. Gone are the days of purchasers simply filling out forms in a basement office, or of procurement managers and medical staff discussing purchasing equipment needs in a hospital’s hallway.  The purchasing professional is no longer isolated from other departments within an organization. And as Grand & Toy’s Patricia Moser noted during our roundtable, the profession is no longer a set of tasks done by someone who simply fell into the role of performing those tasks. It is a profession, in the truest sense of that word.

As such, the skills and knowledge needed to do it right are now more broad than they were a decade or two ago. Naturally, purchasers will need the same skills they need today. But—like any high-level corporate employee—procurement professionals will need a solid business background (provided by an MBA, perhaps?) to offer an organization everything a purchaser should provide. Add to that solid math skills, writing and communication ability, tech savvy, sales training, legal and financial knowledge, and you begin to see the picture of how well-rounded and knowlegeable a purchasing manager must be. By most standards, the purchasing profession seems to be evolving rapidly.

In our article, Dan Georgescu of the Ford Motor Company of Canada brings up a valid point about another step in the evolution of the profession. The purchasing department of the future will be seen not simply as a place where money gets spent, but as a partner in developing and implementing an organization’s strategy. It’s an exciting prospect. And while developing skills and deepening knowledge takes dedication, procurement professionals should be proud their field is expanding to occupy a strategic seat at the top.