The value supply management brings to a company varies depending on where the business is on the maturity curve, whether it’s in a start-up phase or the more mature innovating phase. The challenge for supply management practitioners is bringing the right value at each stage of a company’s growth.

In a packed session on opening day of ISM2015, Conrad Smith, senior director, global procurement at Adobe Systems Inc., shared his thoughts about how supply management must adapt to the needs of the corporation and the business units it works with.

“To me, world-class procurement is not a cut-and-paste concept that only works in large organizations,” he explains. “It’s a balancing act where supply management must decide what it is the business needs us to do.” He adds: “If my company’s goal to get to (US)$8 billion — then that’s my department’s goal as well.”

The key is for procurement to know what is needed at each phase of business growth. In the start-up phase, the focus might be on responsiveness, while in the growth phase it might be on expanding the supply base and speed to market. In a company’s sustaining phase, supply management might emphasize cost reduction and compliance.

And at each stage, Smith says supply management practitioners have to ask if it has the right talent to meet current needs of the company as well as helping it reach the next level on the maturity curve.

What are some of ways a supply chain organization can better align itself with the business? Smith says it’s not rocket science, but rather good business sense. He suggests:

Listen to the business unit by asking what they hope to achieve.

Get their strategy documents, whether it’s a marketing or engineering plan.

Find out the business units’ goals and their roadmap for reaching those goals.

Make sure procurement’s processes fit the business units’ needs.

Supply management’s goal should be to enable the business to be successful, Smith says. “I really think that we can do more for our companies than we think we can.”