In the November/December issue of Inside Supply Management®, Camille Batiste, CPSM, C.P.M., president, nutrition optimization at Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), devoted the Voices column to discussing how procurement needs to market itself better within the business.
Batiste, who is Chair of Institute for Supply Management®’s (ISM®) Board of Directors, offers additional thoughts on elevating the procurement function and the value it provides.
“Procurement people are the worst marketers,” she says. “We tend to be humble and speak a language that others don’t understand. It’s hard to get an operations person excited about cost savings, but if we share with her how we’ve improved quality of a key raw material, or how we identified multiple suppliers to ensure supply of critical parts in an emergency, now we have an audience, and a partner.” Procurement must “sell” the function’s strategic value through such stories, she says.
That’s what Batiste did in her prior role at ADM as vice president, global procurement. “That’s the value that the leader brings,” she explains. “The leader spends time with other leaders showcasing what the procurement function is doing and how it impacts stakeholders, and then talks through the other ways procurement can help, asking, ‘What are your challenges? What are you trying to accomplish? Then it becomes everybody’s responsibility in procurement deliver on those business challenges and to tell the story.”
This type of excellence not only markets a company’s procurement organization, but it elevates the procurement profession. “We’re building an appreciation for what we do internally and externally, even with our suppliers. When they see procurement as a professional organization,” she says. “They begin to get a better appreciation for procurement within their companies.”
It’s a continually evolving cycle that builds on itself: As other functions begin to realize that the procurement profession has been elevated, Batiste says, “(they begin) to look at supplier relationships more strategically than they have in the past. When their customers elevate the procurement profession, salespeople must up their game, which then gives them better appreciation for their own procurement organizations, which builds their game. So, we’re actually building on each other. The better we get in our profession in executing flawlessly —that’s also part of marketing our profession and making us better over time.”
Batiste cites the book Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins, which discusses such a cycle. She says, “It talks about how companies build a model that continually builds excellence. For example, Amazon started out with low prices and great customer experience, and in so doing, they got more customers. More customers increased sales, which attracted third-party sellers, which increased sales further, absorbed their fixed cost, and allowed them to lower prices more.
“The better you are at what you can do, you can build on it. It’s the same with procurement — the more we invest in our people, the more we give them the resources to be professional, business-minded and commercial, the better they do their jobs in regard to their suppliers, then the better they do in their careers, and the better they do in improving their companies’ performance. They’re also supporting the development of procurement within their suppliers’ organizations, and the entire profession.”
Batiste adds, “Doing a great job in procurement and marketing our results and value not only advances the function in our own organization, it advances the entire supply management profession.”