Over the years I have found that there is one question that can make a Purchasing Director / Manager feel quite uneasy. No, it is not the one about how much have you saved, any one can manipulate statistics to show whatever they want. It is the question about their sphere of influence. What percentage of your overall spend do you either control or have an influence over (i.e. you are involved in the decision making process)? Reactions can vary from 'why is that important' and 'not enough' to the most popular answer – 'I don't know'!
This is not a trick question, as professional purchasing is all about relationships and facilitating outcomes. Indeed, internal and external customer satisfaction should, in my view, be a far more prominent measure than meaningless statistics on the numbers of transactions undertaken in a given period. The reality, however, is very different. Too many purchasing organisations are regarded as being an obstacle that people need to get around. If the Department is not throwing process / legal delays in the way it is engaged in ensuring that suppliers are signed up to the latest social engineering fad.
For many, particularly in the public sector, the purchasing sphere of influence is often less than 10% of the total third party expenditure. And before private sector readers start laughing too loudly many of you never get anywhere near the big deals that matter. The oncoming recession, sorry I meant downturn, is an ideal opportunity for the purchasing function to re-invent itself if it is not to become totally irrelevant in the future. It needs to rise above the tired mantras of telling everyone how important it is and sticking 'professional' after the word purchasing in the hope that it will be taken seriously. Expanding the sphere of influence is about delivering results, outcomes and service excellence to its line customers.