How advanced is your purchasing?

We all know those "has-beens" in purchasing who don’t want to hear anything about digitalization, agility, home office, etc. They usually argue, “why bother to change when everything was fine before”? Yet, we also have those young, dynamic buyers who cannot believe that modern performance drivers are not yet being applied. And there are worlds in between. Is this due to the generation gap? Or, is it the rapid change or the global chaos? The question is, how “up to date” does purchasing need to be to meet current and future challenges? | Sharomka

The fact is that traditional approaches to procurement have long since become obsolete. The market and economic developments require novel ways of thinking. Those who are not prepared to change their mindsets will harm purchasing, employees, and ultimately the company sooner or later. Yet, is it possible to think innovatively and what does purchasing really need?

Ego off! Future on!

If we want to think of purchasing in an innovative and modern way, the first step is to deflate our own ego and rethink old routines. Incidentally, this is also very helpful in times when there is a shortage in skilled employees when looking for new co-workers. Currently, a fundamental reorganization is currently taking place in almost every company, which raises the question of how do we want to work in the future.

In this regard, I found a great comparison that shows how we used to function in the past and how we are going to work in the future (if you are interested in the detailed graph on this, please contact me). In many purchasing departments, the typical 9-to-5 work style approach was in demand. It was normal to work in a shared office space provided by the company — mostly open-plan offices. The team members used the equipment that was made available to them: PC, software, printer, etc. There was a clear specification in place of what the career ladder for buyers looked like and what it took to climb it. We are going to (have to) leave all that behind.

What distinguishes modern purchasing?

In a modern purchasing department, employees work at any time and from anywhere. This does not mean that we are on duty 24/7, but independently setting our own working hours. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in the company, working from home, or on the beach in Mexico. In my conversations with young university graduates, I often hear that they would like to decide for themselves which hardware they work with. Many are also willing to use their own equipment. What they are not interested in, however, are predefined career paths. They would much rather follow a path that suits them. Once you let that sink in, it sounds like a lot of changes are in store for purchasing. In my opinion, these are not only necessary, but a real opportunity to shape the future together with modern purchasing. The best way to do that is to bring people into the team who think the same way.

No future without people

Boomers, X, Y, Z, and Alpha in the foreseeable future: the demands, expectations, and life attitudes of each generation have never been as wide-ranging as they are today. What does it mean for purchasing executives? Clearly, the trend is moving away from management to cooperation. Young buyers want to be involved when decisions are made. They want to shape the future and not have to "bow to the orders" of a manager. Increasingly, the manager will be needed in a mentoring or coaching role to support and encourage employees ­and not control their every move. I myself have experienced how fruitful working together across different generations can be.

X and Y: a brilliant duo

I myself belong to generation X and was once supposed to work on a project with a Y-generation partner. Was that going to work? I got to know a young colleague and, even though our interests were miles apart at times, we managed to become a brilliant duo. How did we become a success? Simply by supporting each other and drawing on our respective strengths. I brought my expertise to the table, especially when it came to negotiating, while he brought his technical expertise in the IT field and dealt with the software. It was a win-win success for us both.

How advanced is your purchasing? I am interested in going deeper into this subject with you: if you like, on LinkedIn or in a personal meeting.

For more on this and other issues for sustainable purchasing strategies, listen to my podcast.

English translation by Nelly Thomas, LinkedIn: