Procurement’s silent majority or influential minority? by Jon Hansen

Posted on February 6, 2015


In the past couple of weeks I have written about the old timers of purchasing, and the emerging Generation Next procurement professionals, focusing on the seemingly inseparable chasm between what once was, and the new reality of today.

However, I did not immediately take into account that there is a third less vocal but increasingly influential group, that are beginning to make their mark behind the scenes.

Let me share with you the story of Giuliana, who responded to my question why did you choose purchasing as a second career?

“To answer your question of why procurement – We had just come out of 2007-2008 with the major turmoil in the financial & property markets. I wanted to be more active civically, but certainly didn’t want to be in political office. It seemed like every level of government seemed unable to cut their spending. Then a simple position in the Purchasing Dept was posted at our local municipality – I had the administrative qualifications and applied.

I feel that if gov’t is to be responsible, then we as citizens have to step up and be more active. I had the work experience, and as I am strong in organizational skills, this seemed like an area that I could make a difference – be a part of the solution. It’s behind the scenes (which I prefer), but can have a positive impact, if the work is done well. Since I first started, I have had to opportunity to get certified, which certainly helped broaden my understanding of the industry – both public & private sector.

That choice to work in Procurement was the way I participated in local government. And yes, in these last five years, I have seen a slow transition from the mindset of just purchasing/ buying materials for the city, to buying/planning within the broader scope of the city’s strategic goals. Purchasing is slowly becoming a topic that is considered at the planning stages – questions such as – “Should we even buy?” and “Is the purchase necessary for the long-term goals?”. Once these questions become routine within the whole organization, along with the choices made, I would say we will have succeeded in re-incorporating the Procurement department back into the organization as an recognized integral part of the planning process.”

Somewhere between the buyers of yesteryear, the majority of whom fell into the job, or the up and comers who have deliberately looked to procurement as their first career choice, the second career generation is almost a hybrid representing the best of both.  I am talking about having the depth of experience in the business world, and the youthful energy associated with choosing to pursue a new and exciting challenge.

Now you might suggest that since most people from the former group fell into the profession, they are in the same category of those who have chosen procurement as a second career.  After all, these individuals were doing something else before assuming the purchasing mantle.

Although it is technically a second career, it is not necessarily a change that was made by choice, as much as it was by circumstance.  Unlike Giulianna who, for example, had a clear vision as to what entering the profession would mean in terms of impact, purchasing people by nature were functionally driven.  Specifically, a job needed to be done and someone had to do it so . . .

“I myself did not start out in purchasing and I can appreciate proven professionals like yourself coming into the profession with new eyes and ideas. That is where best practices come from. I agree things are changing and it is not the recent graduates that are doing this. It is people like you and myself and many other talented professionals.” – Phillip

While we contemplate the great generational divide, this third group that is enriched with experience, knowledge and the enthusiasm to learn and make a difference, may actually be the ones reshaping the industry.

Whether they are a silent majority or influential minority, one thing is clear . . . they are positioned to effect the greatest change within an industry that is itself, going through the early stages of a major transformation.

new career path


Posted in: Commentary