I am account director for a large blue-chip customer at Norland, which provides hard services-led facilities maintenance and support services. I lead a team ensuring our customer’s operational needs are exceeded and that we meet our financial commitments.
Our internal relationship with the procurement team has been on a journey in the past few years. I would have described the relationship as frosty before, but now there is a strong sense that we are all in it together and we are working proactively to deliver results to my customer.
Prior to this change, I had to optimise the supply chain on one of my previous customer accounts. I managed this project autonomously and, while we achieved some good results such as consolidating the supply chain from 90 to 65 suppliers, I think we would have achieved much more had we had a better relationship with procurement.
The main change is that the procurement lead for my division works as a true business partner, listening to understand my needs and working on my behalf with suppliers to translate those needs into solutions. We get the advice and support we need as opposed to being told what to do and then left to work it out on our own.
We are a people-based business with a strong emphasis on customer service so the procurement team needs to, and does, work alongside us as colleagues. In addition, the procurement team is working together in such a way that I get to see what they are doing in other parts of the business and this sharing of ideas has been useful in helping me take ideas and cost savings to my customer.
Recently, our customer initiated a review of its entire global supply chain and as Norland is its largest supplier across EMEA, we were put through a rigorous review of our supply management operations. By working with procurement, we were able to pass this with flying colours. As a result of working together, my procurement lead is now sharing ideas and best practice with the customer’s procurement team. This would not have happened before because I wouldn’t have trusted procurement enough to let them deal directly with my customer.
Tips for procurement
1. Procurement people can sometimes sound like they are preaching and telling us what strategic procurement is, rather than actually listening to what our problem is and working with us to find the right solution.
2. I would advise all procurement teams to spend lots of face-to-face time with their stakeholders and ask a great deal of questions. That way, they will begin to truly understand the business and how we can jointly support our customers.
3. Don’t accept the status quo and do question decisions that have previously been made.
4. The world is always evolving and customers’ needs change so be prepared to adapt solutions to fit the need – just because consolidating the supply chain worked for one situation, doesn’t mean it will work in another.
☛ Russell Turley is account director, Norland Managed Services